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^ I. The Descent of Man 
« II. The Other Two 
I III. Expiation. 
^ IV. The Lady's Maid's Bell 
» V. The Mission of Jane 
» VI. The Reckoning • 

VII. The Letter 
VIII. The Dilettante 
» IX. The Quicksand . 

X. A Venetian Night's ENTBRTAurifENT 











When Professor linyard came back from his 
holiday in the Maine woods the air of rejuvena- 
tion he brought with him was due less to the 
influences of the climate than to the companion- 
ship he had enjoyed on his travels. To Mrs. 
Linyard's observant eye he had appeared to set 
out alone ; but an invisible traveller had in fact 
accompanied him, and if his heart beat high it 
was simply at the pitch of his adventure : for 
the Professor had eloped with an idea. 

No one who has not tried the experiment 
can divine its exhilaration. Professor Linyard 
would not have changed places with any hero of 
romance pledged to a flesh-and-blood abduction. 
The most fascinating female is apt to be en- 
cumbered with luggage and scruples : to take 
up a good deal of room in the present and 
overlap inconveniently into the future ; whereas 
an idea can accommodate itself to a single 
molecule of the brain or expand to the cir- 
cumference of the horizon. The Professor *s 
companion had to the utmost this quality of 



adaptability. As the express train whirled him 
away from the somewhat inelastic circle of Mrs. 
Linyard*s affections, his idea seemed to be sitting 
opposite him, and their eyes met every moment 
or two in a glance of joyous complicity ; yet 
when a friend of the family presently joined him 
and began to talk about college matters, the idea 
slipped out of sight in a flash, and the Professor 
would have had no difficulty in proving that he 
was alone. 

But if, from the outset, he found his idea the 
most agreeable of fellow-travellers, it was only 
in the aronutic solitude of the woods that he 
tasted the full savour of his adventure. There, 
during the long cool August days, lying full 
length on the pine-needles and gazing up into 
the sky, he would meet the eyes of his com- 
panion bending over him like a nearer heaven. 
And what eyes they were !— clear yet unfathom- 
able, bubbling with inexhaustible laughter, yet 
drawing their freshness and sparkle from the 
central depths of thought ! To a man who for 
twenty years had faced an eye reflecting the 
commonplace with perfect accuracy, these escapes 
into the inscrutable had always been peculiarly 
inviting ; but hitherto the Professor s mental 
infidelities had been restricted by an unbroken 
and relentless domesticity. Now, for the first 
time since his marriage, chance had given him 
six weeks to himself, and he was coming home 
with his lungs full of liberty. 

It must not be inferred that the Professor's 



domestic relations were defective : they were in 
fact so complete that it was almost impossible to 
get away from them. It is the happy husbands 
who are really in bondage : the little rift within 
the lute is often a passage to freedom. Marriage 
had given the Professor exactly what he had 
sought in it : a comfortable lining to life. The 
impossibility of rising to sentihiental crises had 
made him scrupulously careful not to shirk the 
practical obligations of the bond. He took 
as it were a sociolc^ical view of lus case, and 
modestly regarded himself as a brick in that 
foundation on which the state is supposed to 
rest. Perhaps if Mrs. Linyard had cared about 
entomology, or had taken sides in the war over 
the transmis^on of acquired characteristics, he 
might have had a less impersonal notion of mar- 
riage ; but he was unconscious of any deficiency 
in their relation, and if consulted woidd probably 
have declared that he didn't want any woman 
bothering with his beetles. His real life had 
always l^n in the universe of thought, in that en- 
chanted region which, to those who have lingered 
there, comes to have so much more colour and 
substance than the painted curtain hanging 
before it. The Professor's particular veil of 
Maia was a narrow strip of homespun woven in 
a monotonous pattern ; but he had only to lift 
it to step into an empire. 

This unseen universe was thronged with the 
most seductive shapes : the Professor moved 
Sultan-like through a seraglio of ideas. But of 


all the lovely apparitions that wove their spells 
about him, none had ever worn quite so per- 
suasive an aspect as this latest favourite. For 
the others were mostly rather grave companions, 
serious-minded and elevating enough to have 
passed muster in a Ladies' Debating Club ; but 
this new fancy of the Professor's was simply one 
embodied laugh. It was, in other words, the 
smile of relaxation at the end of a long day's 
toil : the flash of irony which the laborious mind 
projects, irresistibly, over labour conscientiously 
performed. The Professor had always been a 
hard worker. If he was an indulgent friend to 
his ideas he was also a stern taskmaster to them. 
For, in addition to their other duties, they had 
to support his family : to pay the butcher and 
baker, and provide for Jack's schooling and 
Millicent's dresses. The Professor's household 
was a modest one, yet it tasked his ideas to keep 
it up to his wife's standard. Mrs. Linyard was 
not an exacting wife, and she took enough pride 
in her husband's attainments to pay for her 
honours by turning Millicent's dresses and 
darning Jack's socks and going to the College 
receptions year after year in the same black sUk 
with shiny seams. It consoled her to see an 
occasional mention of Professor Linyard's re- 
markable monograph on the Ethical Reactions 
of the Infusoria, or an allusion to his investiga- 
tions into the Unconscious Cerebration of the 

Still there were moments when the healthy 


indifFerence of Jack and Millicent reacted on the 
maternal sympathies ; when Mrs, Linyard would 
have made her husband a railway director, if by 
this transformation she might have increased her 
boy's allowance and given her daughter a new 
hat, or a set of furs such as the other girls were 
wearing. Of such moments of rebellion the 
Professor himself was not wholly unconscious. 
He could not indeed understand why any one 
should want a new hat ; and as to an allowance, 
he had had much less money at college than 
Jack, and had yet managed to buy a microscope 
and collect a few * specimens * ; while Jack was 
free from such expensive tastes ! But the Pro- 
fessor did not let his want of sympathy interfere 
with the discharge of his paternal obligations. 
He worked hard to keep the wants of his family 
gratified, and it was precisely in the endeavour 
to attain this end that he at length broke down 
and had to cease from work altogether. 

To cease from work was not to cease from 
thought of it ; and in the unwonted pause from 
effort the Professor found himself taking a 
general survey of the field he had travelled. 
At last it was possible to lift his nose from the 
loom, to step a moment in front of the tapestry 
he had been weaving. From this first inspec- 
tion of the pattern so long wrought over from 
behind, it was natural to glance a litde farther 
and seek its reflection in the public eye. It was 
not indeed of his special task that he thought in 
this connection. He was but one of the great 


army of weavers at work among the threads of 
that cosmic woof ; and what he sought was the 
general impression their labour had produced. 

When Professor Linyard first plied his 
microscope, the audience of the man of science 
had been composed of a few fellow -students, 
sympathetic or hostile as their habits of mind 
predetermined, but versed in the jargon of the 
profession and familiar with the point of de- 
parture. In the intervening quarter of a century, 
however, this little group had been swallowed 
up in a larger public. Every one now read 
scientific books and expressed an opinion on 
them. The ladies and the clergy had taken 
them up first ; now they had passed to the 
schoolroom and the kindergarten. Daily life 
was regulated on scientific principles ; the daily 
papers had their * Scientific Jottings ' ; nurses 
passed examinations in hygienic science, and 
Dabies were fed and dandled according to the 
new psychology. 

The very fact that scientific investigation 
still had, to some minds, the flavour of hetero- 
doxy, gave it a perennial interest. The mob 
had broken down the walls of tradition to batten 
in the orchard of forbidden knowledge. The 
inaccessible goddess whom the Professor had 
served in his youth now offered her charms in 
the market-place. And yet it was not the 
same goddess, after all, but a pseudo-science 
masquerading in the garb of the real divinity. 
This false goddess had her ritual and her 


literature. She had her sacred books, written by 
false priests and sold by millions to the faithful. 
In the most successful of these works, ancient 
dogma and modern discovery were depicted in 
a dose embrace under the lime-lights of a hazy 
transcendentalism ; and the tableau never failed 
of its effect. Some of the books designed on 
this popular model had lately fallen into the 
Professor's hands, and they filled him with 
mingled rage and hilarity. The rage soon 
died : he came to regard this mass of pseudo- 
literature as protecting the truth from desecra- 
tion. But the hilarity remained, and flowed 
into the form of his idea. And the idea — ^the 
divine incomparable idea — was simply that he 
should avenge his goddess by satirizing her 
false interpreters. He would write a skit on 
the * popular * scientific book ; he would so ^ 
heap platitude on platitude, fallacy on fallacy, 
false analogy on false analogy, so use his superior 
knowledge to abound in the sense of the ignor- ' 
ant, that even the gross crowd would join in 
the laugh against its augurs. And the laugh 
should be something more than the distension 
of mental muscles ; it should be the trumpet- 
blast bringing down the walls of ignorance, 
or at least the little stone striking the giant 
between the eyes. 


The Professor, on presenting his card, had 
imagined that it would command prompt access 
to the publisher's sanctuary ; but the young man 
who read his name was not moved to immediate 
action. It was clear that Professor Linyard of 
Hillbridge University was not a specific figure 
to the purveyors of popular literature. But the 
publisher was an old friend ; and when the card 
had finally drifted to his office on the languid 
tide of routine he came forth at once to greet 
his visitor. 

The warmth of his welcome convinced the 
Professor that he had been right in bringing 
his manuscript to Ned Harviss. He and 
Harviss had been at Hillbridge together, and 
the future publisher had been one of the wildest 
spirits in that band of college outlaws which 
yearly turns out so many inoflFensive citizens 
and kind husbands and fathers. The Professor 
knew the taming qualities of life. He was 
aware that many of his most reckless comrades 
had been transformed into prudent capitalists 
or cowed wage-earners ; but he was almost sure 



that he could count on Harviss. So rare a 
sense of irony, so keen a perception of relative 
values, could hardly have been blunted even by 
twenty years* intercourse with the obvious. 

The publisher's appearance was a little dis- 
concerting. He looked as if he had been 
fattened on popular fiction ; and his fat was full 
of optimistic creases. The Professor seemed to 
see him bowing into the office a long train of 
spotless heroines laden with the maiden tribute 
of the hundredth thousand volume. 

Nevertheless, his welcome was reassuring.. 
He did not disown his early enormities, and 
capped his visitor's tentative allusions by such 
flagrant references to the past that the Professor 
produced his manuscript without a scruple. 

* What — you don't mean to say you've been 
doing something in our line ? ' 

The Professor smiled. * You publish scien- 
tific books sometimes, don't you ? ' 

The publisher's optimistic creases relaxed a 
little. * H'm — it all depends — I'm afraid you're 
a little foo scientific for us. We have a big sale 
for scientific breakfast foods, but not for the 
concentrated essences. In your case, of course, I 
should be delighted to stretch a point ; but in your 
own interest I ought to tell you that perhaps one 
of the educational houses would do you better.' 

The Professor leaned back, still smiling 

*Well, look it over — I rather think you'll 
take it.' 


* Oh, we'll take it, as I say ; but the terms 
might not ' 

* No matter about the terms * 

The publisher threw his head back with a 
laugh. *I had no idea that science was so 
profitable ; we find our popular novelists are 
the hardest hands at a bargain/ 

* Science is disinterested,* the Professor cor- 
rected him. * And I have a fancy to have you 
publish this thing/ 

* That's immensely good of you, my dear 
fellow. Of course your name goes with a certain 
public — and I rather like the originality of our 
bringing out a work so out of our line. I 
daresay it nuy boom us both.' His creases 
deepened at the thought, and he shone en- 
couragingly on the Professor's leave-taking. 

Withm a fortnight, a line from Harviss 
recalled the Professor to town. He had been 
looking forward with immense zest to this 
second meeting ; Harviss's college roar was in 
his tympanum, and he could already hear the 
protracted chuckle which would follow his 
friend's progress through the manuscript. He 
was proud of the adroitness with which he had 
kept his secret from Harviss, had maintained 
to the last the pretence of a serious work, in 
order to give the keener edge to his reader's 
enjoyment. Not since undergraduate days had 
the Professor tasted such a draught of pure fun 
as his anticipations now poured for him. 

This time his card brought instant admission. 




He was bowed into the office like a successful 
novelist, and Harviss grasped him with both 

^ Well — do you mean to take it ? ' he asked 
with a lingering coquetry. 

* Take it f Take it, my dear fellow ? It's 
in press already — ^you'll excuse my not waiting 
to consult you? There will be no difficulty 
about terms, I assure you, and we had barely 
time to catch the autumn market. My dear 
linyard, why didn't you fell me ? ' His voice 
sank to a reproachful solemnity, and he pushed 
forward his own arm-chair. 

The Professor dropped into it with a chuckle. 
* And miss the joy of letting you find out ? ' 

* Well — it was a joy.' Harviss held out a 
box of his best cigars. *I don't know when 
I've had a bigger sensation. It was so deucedly 
unexpected— and, my dear fellow, you've brought 
it so exactly to the right shop.' 

*rm glad to hear you say so,' said the 
Professor modestly. 

Harviss laughed in rich appreciation. ^I 
don't suppose you had a doubt of it ; but of 
course I was quite unprepared. And it's so 
extraordinarily out of your line ' 

The Professor took off his glasses and rubbed 
them with a slow smile. 

^ Would you have thought it so — at college ? ' 

Harviss stared. *At college? — ^Why, you 
were the most iconoclastic devil ' 

There was a perceptible pause. The Professor 


restored his glasses and looked at his friend. 

* Well ? ' he said simply. 

* Well ? * echoed the other, still staring. 

* Ah — I see ; you mean that that's what ex- 
plains it. The swing of the pendulum, and so 
forth. Well, I admit it's not an uncommon 
phenomenon. I've conformed myself, for ex- 
ample ; most of our crowd have, I believe ; but 
somehow I hadn't expected it of you.' 

The close observer might have detected a 
faint sadness under the official congratulation of 
his tone ; but the Professor was too amazed to 
have an ear for such fine shades. 

* Expected it of me ? Expected what of 
me ? ' he gasped. ^ What in heaven do you 
think this thing is ? ' And he struck his fist on 
the manuscript which lay between them. 

Harviss had recovered his optimistic creases. 
He rested a benevolent eye on the document. 

*Why, your apologia — your confession of 
faith, I should call it. You surely must have 
seen which way you were going ? You can't 
have written it in your sleep ? ' 

* Oh, no, I was wide awake enough,' said the 
Professor faintly. 

* Well, then, why are you staring at me as if 
I were not ? ' Harviss leaned forward to lay a 
reassuring hand on his visitor's worn coat-sleeve. 
' Don't mistake me, my dear Linyard. Don't 
fancy there was the least unkindness in my 
allusion to your change of front. What is 
growth but the shifting of the stand - point ? 


Why should a man be expected to look at life 
with the same eyes at twenty and — at our age ? 
It never occurred to me that you could feel the 
least delicacy in admitting that you have come 
round a little — have fallen into line, so to 

But the Professor had sprung up as if to give 
his lungs more room to expand ; and from them 
there issued a laugh which shook the editorial 

^ Oh Lx)rd, oh Lord — is it really as good as 
that ? • 

Harviss had glanced instinctively toward the 
electric bell on his desk ; he was evidently pre- 
pared for an emergency. 

* My dear fellow ' he began in a soothing 


*Oh, let me have my laugh out, do,' im- 
plored the Professor. * I'll — I'll quiet down in 
a minute ; you needn't ring for the young man.' 
He dropped into his chair again and grasped its 
arms to steady his shaking. * This is the best 
laugh I've hzid since college,' he brought out 
between his paroxysms. And then, suddenly, 
he sat up with a groan. * But if it's as good as 
that it's a failure ! ' he exclaimed. 

Harviss, stiffening a little, examined the tip 
of his cigar. *My dear linyard,' he said at 
length, *I don't understand a word you're 

The Professor succumbed to a fresh access, 
from the vortex of which he managed to 


fling out — *But that's the very core of the 
joke ! ' 

Harviss looked at him resignedly. 'What 

*Why, your not seeing — your not under- 
standing * 

* Not understanding what ? ' 

* Why, what the book is meant to be/ His 
laughter subsided again and he sat gazing 
thoughtfully at the publisher. * Unless it 
means,* he wound up, *that IVe overshot the 

* If I am the mark, you certainly have,' said 
Harviss, with a glance at the clock. 

The Professor caught the glance and inter- 
preted it. 'The book is a skit,' he said, rising. 

The other stared. * A skit } It's not serious, 
you mean ? ' 

* Not to me — ^but it seems you've taken it so.' 

* You never told me ' began the publisher 

in a ruffled tone. 

* No, I never told you,' said the Professor. 
Harviss sat staring at the manuscript between 

them. * I don't pretend to be up in such recon- 
dite forms of humour,' he said, still stiffly. * Of 
course you address yourself to a very small class 
of readers.' 

* Oh, infinitely small,' admitted the Professor, 
extending his hand toward the manuscript. 

Harviss appeared to be pursuing his own 
train of thought. * That is,' he continued, * if 
you insist on an ironical interpretation.' 


* If I insist on it — ^what do you mean ? * 

The publisher smiled faintly. *Well — ^isn*t 
the book susceptible of another ? If / read it 
without seeing * 

* Well ? * murmured the other, fascinated. 

' why shouldn't the rest of the world ? * 

declared Harviss boldly. *I represent the 
Average Reader — that's my business, that's 
what I've been training myself to do for the 
last twenty years. It's a mission like another — 
the thing is to do it thoroughly ; not to cheat 
and compromise. I know fellows who are pub- 
lishers in business hours and dilettantes the rest 
of the time. Well, they never succeed : con- 
victions are just as necessary in business as in 
religion. But that's not the point — I was 
going to say that if you'll let me handle this 
book as a genuine thing I'll guarantee to make 
it go.' 

The Professor stood motionless, his hand 
still on the manuscript. 

* A genuine thing ? ' he echoed. 

* A serious piece of work — ^the expression of 
your convictions. I tell you there's nothing 
the public likes as much as convictions — they'll 
always follow a man who believes in his own 
ideas. And this book is just on the line of 
popular interest. You've got hold of a big 
thing. It's full of hope and enthusiasm : it's 
written in the religious key. There are pass- 
ages in it that would do splendidly in a Birth- 
day Book — ^things that popular preachers would 


quote in their sermons. If you*d wanted to 
catch a big public you couldn't have gone 
about it in a better way. The thing's perfect 
for my purpose — I wouldn't let you alter a 
word of it. It will sell like a popular novel if 
you'll let me handle it in the right way.' 


When the Professor left Harviss*s office the 
manuscript remained behind. He thought he 
had been taken by the huge irony of the situa- 
tion — by the enlarged circumference of the 
joke. In its original form, as Harviss had said, 
the book would have addressed itself to a very 
limited circle : now it would include the world. 
The elect would understand ; the crowd would 
not ; and his work would thus serve a double 
purpose. And, after all, nothing was changed 
in the situation ; not a word of the book was 
to be altered. The change was merely in the 
publisher's point of view, and in the * tip ' he was 
to give the reviewers. The Professor had only 
to hold his tongue and look serious. 

These arguments found a strong reinforce- 
ment in the large premium which expressed 
Harviss's sense of his opportunity. As a 
satire the book would have brought its author 
nothing ; in fact, its cost would have come out 
of his own pocket, since, as Harviss assured 
him, no publisher would have risked taking it. 
But as a profession of faith, as the recantation 



of an eminent biologist, whose leanings had 
hitherto been supposed to be toward a cold 
determinism, it would bring in a steady income 
to author and publisher. The offer found the 
Professor in a moment of financial perplexity. 
His illness, his unwonted holiday, the necessity 
of postponing a course of well-paid lectures, 
had combined to diminish his resources; and 
when Harviss offered him an advance of a 
thousand dollars the esoteric savour of the joke 
became irresistible. It was stOl as a Joke that 
he persisted in regarding the transaction ; and 
though he had pledged himself not to betray 
the real intent of the book, he held in petto the 
notion of some day being able to take the 
public into his confidence. As for the initiated, 
they would know at once : and however long 
a face he pulled, his colleagues would see the 
tongue in his cheek. Meanwhile it fortunately 
happened that, even if the book should achieve 
the kdnd of triumph prophesied by Harviss, 
it would not appreciably injure its author's 
professional standing. Professor Linyard was 
known chiefly as a microscopist. On the 
structure and habits of a certain class of 
coleoptera he was the most distinguished living 
authority ; but none save his intimate friends 
knew what generalizations on the destiny of 
man he had drawn from these special studies. 
He might have published a treatise on the 
Filioque without disturbing the confidence of 
those on whose approval his reputation rested ; 


and moreover he was sustained by the thought 
that one glance at his book would let them 
into its secret. In fact, so sure was he of this 
that he wondered the astute Harviss had cared 
to risk such speedy exposure. But Harviss 
had probably reflected that even in this rever- 
berating age the opinions of the laboratory do 
not easily reach the street ; and the Professor, 
at any rate, was not bound to offer advice on 
this point. 

The determining cause of his consent was 
the fact that the book was already in press. 
The Professor knew little about the workings 
of the press, but the phrase gave him a sense 
of finality, of having been caught himself in 
the toils of that mysterious engine. If he had 
had time to think the matter over his scruples 
might have dragged him back ; but his con- 
science was eased oy the futility of resistance. 



Mrs. Lin yard did not often read the papers ; 
and there was therefore a special significance 
in her approaching her husband one evening 
after dinner with a copy of the New Tork 
Investigator in her hand. Her expression lent 
solemnity to the act : Mrs. Linyard had a 
limited but distinctive set of expressions, and 
she now looked as she did when the President 
of the University came to dine. 

*You didn't tell me of this, &muel,* she 
said in a slightly tremulous voice. > 

* Tell you of what } ' returned the Professor, 
reddening to the margin of his baldness. 

*That you had published a book — I might 
never have heard of it if Mrs. Pease hadn't 
brought me the paper.' 

Her husband rubbed his eyeglasses with a 
groan. *Oh, you would have heard of it,' 
he said gloomily. 

Mrs. Linyard stared. *Did you wish to 
keep it from me, Samuel ? ' And as he made 
no answer, she added with irresistible pride : 



* Perhaps you don't know what beautiful things 
have been said about it/ 

He took the paper with a reluctant hand. 
^ Has Pease been saying beautiful things about 

XL • 

* The Professor ? Mrs. Pease didn't say he 
had mentioned it.' 

The author heaved a sigh of relief. His 
book, as Harviss had prophesied, had caught 
the autumn market : had caught and captured 
it. The publisher had conducted the campaign 
like an experienced strategist. He had com- 
pletely surrounded the enemy. Every news- 
paper, every periodical, held in ambush an 
advertisement of *The Vital Thing.' Weeks 
in advance the great commander had begun 
to form his lines of attack. Allusions to the 
remarkable significance of the coming work 
had appeared first in the scientific and literary 
reviews, spreading thence to the supplements 
of the daily journals. Not a moment passed 
without a quickening touch to the public con- 
sciousness : seventy millions of people were 
forced to remember at least once a day that 
Professor Linyard's book was on the verge of 
appearing. Slips emblazoned with the question : 
Have you read • The Vital Thing"? fell from the 
pages of popular novels and whitened the floors 
of crowded street-cars. The query, in large 
lettering, assaulted the traveller at the railway 
bookstall, confronted him on the walls of 
< elevated ' stations, and seemed, in its ascending 


scale, about to supplant the interrogations as 
to sapolio and stove polish which animate our 
rural scenery. 

On the day of publication the Professor had 
withdrawn to his laboratory. The shriek of 
the advertisements was in his ears, and his one 
desire was to avoid all knowledge of the event 
they heralded. A reaction of self-consciousness 
had set in, and if Harviss's cheque had sufficed 
to buy up the first edition of *The Vital Thing* 
the Professor would gladly have devoted it 
to that purpose. But the sense of inevitable- 
ness gradually subdued him, and he received 
his wife's copy of the Investigator with a kind 
of impersonal curiosity. The review was a 
long one, full of extracts : he saw, as he glanced 
over these, how well they would look in a 
volume of * Selections.' The reviewer began 
by thanking his author ^ for sounding with no 
uncertain voice that note of ringing optimism, 
of faith in man's destiny and the supremacy of 
good, which has too long been silenced by the 
whining chorus of a decadent nihilism. . . . 
It is well,' the writer continued, *when such 
reminders come to us not from the moralist 
but from the man of science — ^when from the 
desiccating atmosphere of the laboratory there 
rises this glorious cry of faith and recon- 

The review was minute and exhaustive. 
Thanks no doubt to Harviss's diplomacy, it 
had been given to the Investigators * best man^* 


and the Professor was startled by the bold eye 
with which his emancipated fallacies confronted 
him. Under the reviewer*s handling they 
made up admirably as truths, and their author 
began to understand Harviss's regret that they 
should be used for any less profitable purpose. 

The Investigatory as Harviss phrased it, 
* set the pace,' and the other journals followed, 
finding it easier to let their critical man- 
of- all -work play a variation on the first 
reviewer's theme than to secure an expert to 
^ do ' the book afresh. But it was evident that 
the Professor had captured his public, for all 
the resources • of the profession could not, as 
Harviss gleefully pointed out, have carried the 
book so straight to the heart of the nation. 
There was something noble in the way in which 
Harviss belittled his own share in the achieve- 
ment and insisted on the inutility of shoving a 
book which had started with such headway on. 

* All I ask you is to admit that I saw what 
would happen,' he said with a touch of pro- 
fessional pride. *I knew you'd struck the 
right note — I knew they'd be quoting you from 
Maine to San Francisco. Good as fiction ? 
It's better — it'll keep going longer.' 

* Will it ? * s^d the Professor with a slight 
shudder. He was resigned to an ephemeral 
triumph but the thought of the book's per- 
sistency frightened him. 

* I should say so ! Why, you fit in every- 
where — ^science, theology, natural history — ^and 


then the all-for-the-best element which is so 
popular just now. Why, you come right in 
with the How-to-Relax series, and they sell 
way up in the millions. And then the book's 
so full of tenderness — there are such lovely 
things in it about flowers and children. I 
didn't know an old Dryasdust like you 
could have such a lot of sentiment in him. 
Why, I actually caught myself snivelling over 
that passage about the snowdrops piercing the 
frozen earth ; and my wife was saying the 
other day that, since she's read "The Vital 
Thing," she begins to think you must write 
the "What-Cheer Column'* in the Inglenook^ 
He threw back his head with a laugh which 
ended in the inspired cry : * And, by George, 
sir, when the thing begins to slow off we'll 
start somebody writing against it, and that 
will run us straight up into another hundred 

And as an earnest of this belief he drew the 
Professor a supplementary cheque. 


Mrs. Lin yard's knock cut short the Impor- 
tunities of the lady who had been trying to 
persuade the Professor to be taken by flash- 
light at his study -table for the Christmas 
number of the Inglenook. On this point the 
Professor had fancied himself impregnable ; but 
the unwonted smile with which he welcomed 
his wife's intrusion showed that his defences 
were weakening. 

The lady from the Inglenook took the hint 
with professional promptness, but said brightly, 
as she snapped the elastic around her note-book : 

* I shan't let you forget me. Professor.' 

The groan with which he followed her 
retreat was interrupted by his wife's question : 

* Do they pay you for these interviews, Samuel ? ' 

The Professor looked at her with sudden 
attention. *Not directly,' he said, wondering 
at her expression. 

She sank down with a sigh. •Indirectly, 

• What is the matter, my dear ? I gave you 

Harviss's second cheque the other day ' 



Her tears arrested him. * Don*t be hard on 
the boy, Samuel ! I really believe your success 
has turned his head/ 

• The boy — ^what boy ? My success ? 

Explain yourself, Susan ! ' 

^ It*s only that Jack has — has borrowed some 
money — which he can*t repay. But you mustn't 
think him altogether to blame, Samuel. Since 
the success of your book he has been asked 
about so much — ^it*s given the children quite a 
different position. Millicent says that wherever 
they go the first question asked is, ^^ Are you any 
relation of the author of * The Vital Tmng * ? " 
Of course we're all very proud of the book ; 
but it entails obligations which you may not 
have thought of in writing it.' 

The Professor sat gazmg at the letters and 
newspaper clippings on the study-table which 
he had just successfully defended from the 
camera of the Inglenook. He took up an 
envelope bearing the name of a popular weekly 

* I don't know that the Inglenook would help 
much,' he said, * but I suppose this might.' 

Mrs. Linyard's eyes glowed with maternal 

' What is it, Samuel ? ' 

*A series of "Scientific Sermons" for the 
Round-the-<jas-Log column of The Womatis 
World. I believe that journal has a larger 
circulation than any other weekly, and they 
pay in proportion.' 


He had not even asked the extent of Jack's 
indebtedness. It had been so easy to relieve 
recent domestic difficulties by the timely pro- 
duction of Harviss*s two cheques that it now 
seemed natural to get Mrs. Linyard out of the 
room by promising further reinforcements. 
The Professor had indignantly rejected Hanriss's 
suggestion that he should follow up his success 
by a second volume on the same lines. He 
had sworn not to lend more than a passive 
support to the fraud of * The Vital Thing * ; 
but the temptation to free himself from Mrs. 
Linyard prevailed over his last scruples, and 
within an hour he was at work on the Scientific 

The Professor was not an unkind man. He 
really enjoyed making his family happy ; and it 
was his own business if his reward for so doing 
was that it kept them out of his way. But the 
success of * The Vital Thing * gave him more 
than this negative satisfaction. It enlarged his 
own existence and opened new doors into other 
lives. The Professor, during fifty virtuous 
years, had been cognizant of only two types 
of women : the fond and foolish, whom one 
married, and the earnest and intellectual, whom 
one did not. Of the two, he infinitely pre- 
ferred the former, even for conversational 
purposes. But as a social instnmient woman 
was unknown to him ; and it was not till he 
was drawn into the world on the tide of his 
literary success that he discovered the deficiencies 


in his classification of the sex. Then he learned 
with astonishment of the existence of a third 
type : the woman who is fond without foolish- 
ness and intellectual without earnestness. Not 
that the Professor inspired, or sought to inspire, 
sentimental emotions ; but he expanded in the 
warm atmosphere of personal interest which 
some of his new acquaintances contrived to 
create about him. It was delightful to talk of 
serious things in a setting of frivolity, and to 
be personal without being domestic. 

Even in this new world, where all subjects 
were touched on lightly, and emphasis was the 
only indelicacy, the Professor found himself 
constrained to endure an occasional reference 
to his book. It was unpleasant at first ; but 
gradually he slipped into the habit of hearing 
it talked of, and grew accustomed to telling 
pretty women just how * it had first come to 

Meanwhile the success of the Scientific 
Sermons was facilitating his family relations. 
His photograph in the Inglenook^ to which the 
lady of the note-book had succeeded in append- 
ing a vivid interview, carried his fame to circles 
inaccessible even to * The Vital Thing ' ; and 
the Professor found himself the man of the 
hour. He soon grew used to the functions of 
the office, and gave out hundred-dollar inter- 
views on every subject, from labour-strikes to 
Babism, with a frequency which reacted agree- 
ably on the domestic exchequer. Presently his 


head began to figure in the advertising pages of 
the magazines. Admiring readers learned the 
name of the only breakfast-food in use at his 
table, of the ink with which * The Vital Thing ' 
had been written, the soap with which the 
author's hands were washed, and the tissue- 
builder which fortified him for further eflFort. 
These confidences endeared the Professor to 
millions of readers, and his head passed in due 
course from the magazine and the newspaper 
to the biscuit-tin and the chocolate-box. 


The Professor, all the while, was leading a 
double life. While the author of « The Vital 
Thing' reaped the fruits of popular approval, 
the aistinguished microscopist continued his 
laboratory work unheeded save by the few who 
were engaged in the same line of investigations. 
His divided allegiance had not hitherto affected 
the quality of his work : it seemed to him that 
he returned to the laboratory with greater zest 
after an afternoon in a drawing-room where 
readings from * The Vital Thing ' had alternated 
with plantation melodies and tea. He had 
long ceased to concern himself with what his 
colleagues thought of his literary career. Of 
the few whom he frequented, none had referred 
to * The Vital Thing * ; and he knew enough 
of their lives to guess that their silence mignt 
as fairly be attributed to indifference as to 
disapproval. They were intensely interested 
in the Professor's views on beetles, but they 
really cared very little what he thought of the 

The Professor entirely shared their feelings, 



and one of his chief reasons for cultivating the 
success which accident had bestowed on him 
was that it enabled him to command a greater 
range of appliances for his real work. He had 
known what it was to lack books and instru- 
ments ; and * The Vital Thing * was the magic 
wand which summoned them to his aid. For 
some time he had been feeling his way along 
the edge of a discovery : balancing himself with 
professional skill on a plank of hypothesis flung 
across an abyss of uncertainty. The conjecture 
was the result of years of patient gathering of 
facts : its corroboration would take months 
more of comparison and classification. But at 
the end of the vista victory loomed. The 
Professor felt within himself that assurance 
of ultimate justification which, to the man of 
science, makes a life-time seem the mere comma 
between premiss and deduction. But he had 
reached the point where his conjectures required 
formulation. It was only by giving them 
expression, by exposing them to the comment 
and criticism of his associates, that he could test 
their final value ; and this inner assurance was 
confirmed by the only friend whose confidence 
he invited. 

Professor Pease, the husband of the lady who 
had opened Mrs. linyard's eyes to the triumph 
of *The Vital Thing,' was the repository of 
her husband's scientific experiences. What, he 
thought of * The Vital Thing ' had never been 
divu^ed ; and he was capable of such vast 


exclusions that it was quite possible that per- 
vasive work had not yet reached him. In any 
case, it was not likely to afFect his judgment of 
the author's professional capacity. 

'You want to put that all in a book, 
Linyard,' was Professor Pease's summing-up on 
hearing of his friend's projected work. 'I'm 
sure you Ve got hold of something big ; but to 
see it clearly yourself you ought to outline it 
for others. Take my advice — chuck everything 
else and get to work to-morrow. It's time you 
wrote a oook, anyhow.* 

Ifs titne you wrote a booky anyhow I The 
words smote the Professor with mingled pain 
and ecstasy : he could have wept over their 
significance. But his friend's other phrase 
reminded him with a start of Harviss. * You 

have got hold of a big thing ' it had been the 

publisher's first comment on * The Vital Thing.* 
But what a world of meaning lay between the 
two phrases ! It was the world in which the 
powers who fought for the Professor were 
destined to wage their final battle ; and for 
the moment he had no doubt of the outcome. 

* By George, Til do it, Pease ! ' he sjud, 
stretching his hand to his friend. 

The next day he went to town to see Harviss. 
He wanted to ask for an advance on the new 
popular edition of *The Vital Thing.' He 
had determined to drop a course of supple- 
mentary lectures at the University and to give 
himself up for a year to his book. To do this, 


additional funds were necessary ; but thanks to 

* The Vital Thing ' they would be forthcoming. 

The publisher received him as cordially as 
usual ; but the response to his demand was not 
as prompt as his previous experience had entitled 
him to expect. 

* Of course we'll be glad to do what we can 
for you, Linyard ; but the fact is, we've decided 
to give up the idea of the new edition for the 

* You've given up the new edition ? * 

* Why, yes — we've done pretty well by * The 
Vital Thing,' and we're inclined to think it's 
your turn to do something for it now.* 

The Professor looked at him blankly. 

* V^Hiat can I do for it ? ' he asked — * what 
more ' his accent added. 

* Why, put a little new life in it by writing 
something else. The secret of perpetual motion 
hasn't yet been discovered, you know, and it's 
one of the laws of literature that books which 
start with a rush are apt to slow down sooner 
than the crawlers. We've kept **Thc Vital 
Thing " going for eighteen months — but, hang 
it, it ain't so vital any more. We simply 
couldn't see our way to a new edition. Oh, I 
don't say it's dead yet — ^but it's moribund, and 
you're the only man who can resuscitate it.' 

The Professor continued to stare. * I — what 
can I do about it ? ' he stammered. 

* Do } Why, write another like it — go it one 
better : you know the trick. The public isn't 


dred of you hy any means ; but you want to 
make yourself heard again before anybody else 
cuts in. Write another book — ^write two, and 
we'll sell them in sets in a box : The Vital Thing 
Series. That will take tremendously in the holi- 
days. Try and let us have a new volume by 
October — I'll be glad to give you a big advance 
if you'll sign a contract on that.' 

The Professor sat silent : there was too cruel 
an irony in the coincidence. 

Harviss looked up at him in surprise. 

•Well, what's the matter with taking my 
advice — ^you're not going out of literature, are 
you ? ' 

The Professor rose from his chair. * No— 
I'm going into it,' he said simply. 

* Going into it ? * 

* I'm going to write a real book — a serious 

•Good Lord! Most people think "The 
Vital Thing " 's serious.' 

* Yes — but I mean something different.* 

* In your old line — beetles and so forth ? ' 

* Yes,' said the Professor solemnly. 
Harviss looked at him with equal gravity. 

• Well, I'm sorry for that,' he said, * because it 
takes you out of our bailiwick. But I suppose 
you've made enough money out of ** The Vital 
Thing" to permit yourself a little harmless 
amusement. When you want more cash come 
back to us — only don't put it off too long, or 
some other fellow will have stepped into your 


shoes. Popularity don*t keep, you know ; and 
the hotter the success the quicker the commodity 

He leaned back, cheerful and sententious, 
delivering his axioms with conscious kindliness. 

The Professor, who had risen and moved to 
the door, turned back with a wavering step. 

•When did you say another volume would 
have to be ready i ' he faltered. 

* I said October — but call it a month later. 
You don't need any pushing nowadays.' 

* And — you'd have no objection to letting me 
have a little advance now ? I need some new 
instruments for my real work.' 

Harviss extended a cordial hand. * My dear 
fellow, that's talking — I'll write the cheque while 
you wait ; and I daresay we can start up the 
cheap edition of " The Vital Thing " at the same 
time, if you'll pledge yourself to give us the book 
by November. — How much ? ' he asked, poised 
above his cheque-book. 

In the street, the Professor stood staring about 
him, uncertain and a little dazed. 

* After all, it's only putting it off for six 
months,' he said to himself; *and I can do 
better work when I get my new instruments.' 

He smiled and raised his hat to the passing 
victoria of a lady in whose copy of * The Vital 
Thing ' he had recently written : 

L,ahr est etiam ipsa voluftas. 












Waythorn, on the drawing-room hearth, 
waited for his wife to come down to dinner. 

It was their first night under his own roof, 
and he was surprised at his thrill of boyish 
agitation. He was not so old, to be sure — ^his 
glass gave him little more than the five-and- 
thirty years to which his wife confessed — but he 
had fancied himself already in the temperate 
zone ; yet here he was listening for her step 
with a tender sense of all it symbolized, with 
some old trail of verse about the garlanded 
nuptial door-posts floating through his enjoy- 
ment of the pleasant room and the good dinner 
just beyond it. 

They had been hastily recalled from their 
honeymoon by the illness of Lily Haskett, the 
child of Mrs. Waythorn's first marriage. The 
little girl, at Waythorn*s desire, had been trans- 
ferred to his house on the day of her mother's 
wedding, and the doctor, on their arrival, broke 
the news that she was ill with typhoid, but 
declared that all the symptoms were favourable, 
lily could show twelve years of unblemished 



healthy and the case promised to be a light one. 
The nurse spoke as reassuringly, and after a 
moment of alarm Mrs. Waythorn had adjusted 
herself to the situation. She was very fond of 
Lily — her affection for the child had perhaps 
been her decisive charm in Waythorn*s eyes — 
but she had the perfectly balanced nerves which 
her little girl had inherited, and no woman ever 
wasted less tissue in unproductive worry. Way- 
thorn was therefore quite prepared to see her 
come in presently, a little late because of a last 
look at Lily, but as serene and well-appointed 
as if her good-night kiss had been laid on the 
brow of health. Her composure was restful to 
him ; it acted as ballast to his somewhat un- 
stable sensibilities. As he pictured her bending 
over the child's bed he thought how soothing 
her presence must be in illness : her very step 
would prognosticate recovery. 

His own life had been a gray one, from 
temperament rather than circumstance, and he 
had been drawn to her by the imperturbed 
gaiety which kept her fresh and elastic at an 
age when most women's acti\aties are growing 
either slack or febrile. He knew what was said 
about her ; for, popular as she was, there had 
always been a faint undercurrent of detraction. 
When she had appeared in New York, nine or 
ten years earlier, as the pretty Mrs. Haskett 
whom Gus Varick had unearthed somewhere — 
was it in Pittsburg or Utica ? — society, while 
promptly accepting her, had reserved the right 


to cast a doubt on its own discrimination. 
Enquiry, however, established her undoubted 
connection with a socially reigning family, and 
explained her recent divorce as the natural 
result of a runaway match at seventeen ; and 
as nothing was known of Mr. Haskett it was 
easy to believe the worst of him. 

Alice Haskett's remarriage with Gus Varick 
was a passport to the set whose recognition she 
coveted, and for a few years the Varicks were 
the most popular couple in town. Unfortun- 
ately the alliance was brief and stormy, and 
this time the husband had his champions. Still, 
even Varick*s staunchest supporters admitted 
that he was not meant for matrimony, and 
Mrs. Varick's grievances were of a nature to 
bear the inspection of the New York courts. 
A New York divorce is in itself a diploma of 
virtue, and in the semi-widowhood of this 
second separation Mrs. Varick took on an air 
of sanctity, and was allowed to confide her 
wrongs to some of the most scrupulous ears in 
town. But when it was known that she was to 
marry Waythorn there was a momentary re- 
action. Her best friends would have preferred 
to see her remain in the role of the injured 
wife, which was as becoming to her as crape to - 
a rosy complexion. True, a decent time had 
elaps^, and it was not even suggested that 
Waythorn had supplanted his predecessor. 
People shook their heads over him, however, 
and one grudging friend, to whom he aiffirmed 



that he took the step with his eyes open, replied 
oracularly : * Yes — and with your ears shut.' 

Waythorn could afFord to smile at these 
innuendoes. In the Wall Street phrase, he had 
* discounted * them. He knew that society has 
not yet adapted itself to the consequences of 
divorce, and that till the adaptation takes place 
every woman who uses the freedom the law 
accords her must be her own social justification. 
Waythorn had an amused confidence in his 
wife's ability to justify herself. His expecta- 
tions were fulfilled, and before the wedding 
took place Alice Varick's group had rallied 
openly to her support. She took it all im- 
perturbably: she had a way of surmounting 
obstacles without seeming to be aware of them, 
and Waythorn looked back with wonder at the 
trivialities over which he had worn his nerves 
thin. He had the sense of having found refuge 
in a richer, warmer nature than his own, and 
his satisfaction, at the moment, was hmnorously 
summed up in the thought that his wife, when 
she had done all she could for Lily, would not be 
ashamed to come down and enjoy a good dinner. 

The anticipation of such enjoyment was not, 
however, the sentiment expressed by Mrs. 
Waythorn's charming face when she presently 
joined him. Though she had put on her most 
engaging tea-gown she had neglected to assume 
the smile that went with it, and Waythorn 
thought he had never seen her look so nearly 


* What is it ? ' he asked. • Is anything 
wrong with Lily ? * 

^No ; IVe just been in and she's still 
sleeping/ Mrs. Waythorn hesitated, *But 
something tiresome has happened.' 

He had taken her two hands, and now 
perceived that he was crushing a paper between 

* This letter ? ' 

* Yes — Mr. Haskett has written — I mean his 
lawyer has written.' 

Waythorn felt himself flush uncomfortably. 
He dropped his wife's hands. 

* What about } ' 

* About seeing Lily. You know the 
courts ' 

* Yes, yes,' he interrupted nervously. 
Nothing was known about Haskett in New 

York. He was vaguely supposed to have 
remained in the outer darkness from which his 
wife had been rescued, and Waythorn was one 
of the few who were aware that he had given 
up his business in Utica and followed her to 
New York in order to be near his little girl. 
In the days of his wooing, Waythorn had often 
met Lily on the doorstep, rosy and smiling, on 
her way * to see papa.' 

' I am so sorry,' Mrs. Waythorn murmured. 

He roused himself. •What does he 
want ? ' 

* He wants to see her. You know she goes 
to him once a week.' 


* Well — he doesn't expect her to go to him 
now, does he ? * 

* No— he has heard of her illness ; but he 
expects to come here/ 


Mrs. Waythorn reddened under his gaze. 
They looked away from each other. 

•I'm afrsud he has the right. . . • You'll 
see. . • .' She made a proffer of the letter. 

Waythorn moved away with a gesture of 
refusal. He stood staring about the softly 
lighted room, which a moment before had seemed 
so full of bridal intimacy. 

* Fm so sorry,' she repeated. * If lily could 
have been movwi ' 

•That's out of the question,' he returned 

' I suppose so.' 

Her lip was beginning to tremble, and he 
felt himself a brute. 

* He must come, of course,' he said. * When 
is — his day ? ' 

* I'm afraid — ^to-morrow.' 

* Very well. Send a note in the morning.* 
The butler entered to announce dinner. 
Waythorn turned to his wife. * Come — ^you 

must be tired. It's beastly, but try to forget 
about it,' he said, drawing her hand through his 

* You're so good, dear. I'll try,' she whis- 
pered back. 

Her face cleared at once, and as she looked 




at him across the flowers, between the rosy 
candle-shades, he saw her lips waver back into 
a smile. 

* How pretty everything is I * she sighed 

He turned to the butler. * The champagne 
at once, please. Mrs. Waythorn is tired.* 

In a moment or two their eyes met above the 
sparkling glasses. Her own were quite clear and 
imtroubled : he saw that she had obeyed his 
injunction and forgotten. 


Waythorn, the next morning, went down town 
earlier than usual. Haskett was not likely to 
come till the afternoon, but the instinct of flight 
drove him forth. He meant to stay away all 
day — ^he had thoughts of dining at his club. As 
his door closed behind him he reflected that 
before he opened it again it would have admitted 
another man who had as much right to enter it 
as himself, and the thought filled him with a 
physical repugnance. 

He caught the * elevated' at the employes* 
hour, and found himself crushed between two 
layers of pendulous humanity. At Eighth 
Street the man facing him wriggled out, and 
another took his place. Waythorn glanced up 
and saw that it was Gus Varick. Th<5 men were 
so close together that it was impossible to ignore 
the smile of recognition on Varick's handsome 
overblown face. And after all — why not.? 
They had always been on good terms, and 
Varick had been divorced before Waythorn's 
attentions to his wife began. The two exchanged 
a word on the perennial grievance of the con- 



gested trains, and when a seat at their side was 
miraculously left empty the instinct of self- 
preservation made Waythorn slip into it after 

The latter drew the stout man's breath of 
relief. * Lord — I was beginning to feel like a 
pressed flower.' He leaned back, looking un- 
concernedly at Waythorn. * Sorry to hear that 
Sellers is knocked out again.' 

* Sellers.?' echoed Waythorn, starting at his 
partner's name. 

Varick looked surprised. * You didn't know 
he was laid up with the gout ? ' 

* No. I've been away — I only got back last 
night.' Waythorn felt himself reddening in 
anticipation of the other's smile. 

* Ah — yes ; to be sure. And Sellers's attack 
came on two days ago. I'm afraid he's pretty 
bad. Very awkward for me, as it happens, 
because he was just putting through a rather 
important thing for me.' 

* Ah ? ' Waythorn wondered vaguely since 
when Varick had been dealing in * important 
things.' Hitherto he had dabbled only in the 
shallow pools of speculation, with which Way- 
thorn's office did not usually concern itself. 

It occurred to him that Varick might be 
talking at random, to relieve the strain of 
their propinquity. That strain was becoming 
momentarily more apparent to Waythorn, and 
when, at Cortlandt Street, he caught sight of an 
acquaintance, and had a sudden vision of the 



picture he and Varick must present to an initiated 
eye, he jumped up with a muttered excuse. 

* I hope you'll find Sellers better,' s^d Varick 
civilly, and he stammered back : ^ If I can be of 

any use to you ' and let the departing crowd 

sweep him to the platform. 

At his office he heard that Sellers was in fact 
ill with the gout, and would probably not be 
able to leave the house for some weeks. 

* I'm sorry it should have happened so, Mr. 
Way thorn,' the senior clerk said with af&ble 
significance. * Mr. Sellers was very much upset 
at the idea of giving you such a lot of extra work 
just now.' 

* Oh, that's no matter,' said Waythorn hastily. 
He secretly welcomed the pressure of additional 
business, and was glad to think that, when the 
day's work was over, he would have to call at 
his partner's on the way home. 

He was late for luncheon, and turned in at 
the nearest restaurant instead of going to his club. 
The place was full, and the waiter hurried him 
to the back of the room to capture the only 
vacant table. In the cloud or cigar -smoke 
Waythorn did not at once distinguish his 
neighbours ; but presently, looking about him, 
he saw Varick seated a few feet off. This time, 
luckily, they were too far apart for conversation, 
and Varick, who faced another way, had probably 
not even seen him ; but there was an irony in 
their renewed nearness. 

Varick was said to be fond of good living. 


and as Waythorn sat despatching his hurried 
luncheon he looked across half enviously at the 
other's leisurely degustation of his meal. When 
Waythorn first saw him he had been helping 
himself with critical deliberation to a bit of 
Camembert at the ideal point of liquefaction, 
and now, the cheese removed, he was just pouring 
his cafe double from its little two-storied earthen 
poL He poured slowly, his ruddy profile bent 
above the task, and one be-ringed white hand 
steadying the lid of the coflfee-pot ; then he 
stretched his other hand to the decanter of cognac 
at his elbow, filled a liqueur-glass, took a tentative 
sip, and poured the brandy into his coflTee-cup. 

Waythorn watched him in a kind of fascina- 
tion. What was he thinking of— only of the 
flavour of the coflTee and the liqueur ? Had the 
morning's meeting left no more trace in his 
thoughts than on his face.^ Had his wife so 
completely passed out of his life that even this 
odd encounter with her present husband, within 
a week after her remarriage, was no more than 
an incident in his day? And as Waythorn 
mused, another idea struck him : had Haskett 
ever met Varick as Varick and he had just met ? 
The recollection of Haskett perturbed him, and 
he rose and left the restaurant taking a circuitous 
way out to escape the placid irony of V arick's nod. 

It was after seven when Waythorn reached 
home. He thought the footman who opened 
the door looked at him oddly. 

' How is Miss Lily ? ' he asked in haste. 


* Doing very well, sir. A gendeman- 

* Tell Barlow to put ofF dinner for half an 
hour,' Waythorn cut him off, hurrying upstairs. 

He went straight to his room and dressed 
without seeing his wife. When he reached the 
drawing-room she was there, fresh and radiant. 
Lily's day had been good ; the doctor was not 
coming back that evening. 

At dinner Waythorn told her of Sellers's 
illness and of the resulting complications. She 
listened sympathetically, adjuring him not to 
let himself be overworked, and asking vague 
feminine questions about the routine of the 
office. Then she gave him the chronicle of 
Lily's day ; quoted the nurse and doctor, and 
told him who had called to enquire. He had 
never seen her more serene and unruffled. It 
struck him, with a curious pang, that she was 
very happy in being with him, so happy that she 
found a childish pleasure in rehearsing the trivial 
incidents of her day. 

After dinner they went to the library, and 
the servant put the coffee and liqueurs on a low 
table before her and left the room. She looked 
singularly soft and girlish, in her rosy pale dress, 
against the dark leather of one of his bachelor 
armchairs. A day earlier the contrast would 
have charmed him. 

He turned away now, choosing a cigar with 
affected deliberation. 

^Did Haskett come?' he asked, with his 
back to her. 


* Oh, yes — he came/ 

* You didn't see him, of course ? ' 

She hesitated a moment. *I let the nurse 
see him.* 

That was all. There was nothing more to 
ask. He swung round toward her, applying a 
match to his cigar. Well, the thing was over for 
a week, at any rate. He would try not to think 
of it. She looked up at him, a triiSe rosier than 
usual, with a smile in her eyes. 

* Ready for your coffee, dear ? * 

He leaned against the mantelpiece, watching 
her as she lifted the coffee-pot. The lamplight 
struck a gleam from her bracelets and tipped 
her soft hair with brightness. How light and 
slender she was, and how each gesture flowed 
into the next ! She seemed a creature all com- 
pact of harmonies. As the thought of Haskett 
receded, Waythorn felt himself yielding again to 
the joy of possessorship. They were his, those 
white hands with their flitting motions, his the 
light haze of hair, the lips and eyes. . . . 

She set down the coffee-pot, and reaching for 
the decanter of cognac, measured off a liqueur- 
glass and poured it into his cup. 

Waythorn uttered a sudden exclamation. 

* What is the matter ? * she said, startled. 

* Nothing ; only — I don't take cognac in my 

* Oh, how stupid of me,' she cried. 

Their eyes met, and she blushed a sudden 
agonized red. 


Ten days later, Mr. Sellers, still house-bound, 
asked Way thorn to call on his way down town. 
The senior partner, with his swaddled foot 
propped up by the fire, greeted his associate 
with an air of embarrassment. 

* Tm sorry, my dear fellow ; IVe got to ask 
you to do an awkward thing for me.' 

Waythorn waited, and the other went on, 
after a pause apparently given to the arrange- 
ment of his phrases : * The fact is, when I was 
knocked out I had just gone into a rather com- 
plicated piece of business for — Gus Varick.' 

* Well ? ' said Waythorn, with an attempt to 
put him at his ease. 

* Well — ^it*s this way : Varick came to me 
the day before my attack. He had evidently 
had an inside tip from somebody, and had made 
about a hundred thousand. He came to me 
for advice, and I suggested his going in with 

* Oh, the deuce ! ' Waythorn exclaimed. He 
saw in a flash what had happened. The in- 
vestment was an alluring one, but required 



n^otiation. He listened quietly while Sellers put 
the case before him, and, the statement ended, 
he said : * You think I ought to see Varick ? * 

*rm afraid I can't as yet. The doctor is 
obdurate. And this thing can't wait. I hate 
to ask. you, but no one else in the office knows 
the ins and outs of it* 

Waythorn stood silent. He did not care a 
farthing for the success of Varick's venture, but 
the honour of the office was to be considered, 
and he could hardly refuse to oblige his partner. 

* Very weU,' he said, * TU do it.' 

That afternoon, apprised by telephone, Varick 
called at the office. Waythorn, waiting in his 
private room, wondered what the others thought 
of it. The newspapers, at the time of Mrs. 
Waythorn*s marriage, had acquainted their 
readers with every detail of her previous matri- 
monial ventures, and Waythorn could fancy the 
clerks smiling behind Varick's back as he was 
ushered in. 

Varick bore himself admirably. He was 
easy without being undignified, and Waythorn 
was conscious of cutting a much less impressive 
figure. Varick had no experience of business, 
and the talk prolonged itself for nearly an hour 
while Waythorn set forth with scrupulous pre- 
cision the details of the proposed transaction. 

* Tm awfully obliged to you,' Varick said as 
he rose. * The fact is I'm not used to having 
much money to look after, and I don't want to 
make an ass of myself ' He smiled, and 


Waythorn could not hdp noticing that there 
was something pleasant about his smile. 'It 
feels uncommonly queer to have enough cash 
to pay one's bills. Fd have sold my soul for it 
a few years ago ! ' 

Waythorn winced at the allusion. He had 
heard it rumoured that a lack of funds had 
been one of the determining causes of the 
Varick separation, but it did not occur to him 
that Varick's words were intentional. It seemed 
more likely that the desire to keep clear of 
embarrassing topics had fatally drawn him into 
one. Waythorn did not wish to be outdone in 

* We'll do the best we can for you/ he said. 
' I think this is a good thing you're in.' 

*Oh, I'm sure it's immense. It's awfully 
good of you ' Varick broke off, em- 
barrassed. ' I suppose the thing's settled now 

-but if ' ^^ ^ 

^ If anything happens before Sellers is about, 
I'll see you again,' said Waythorn quietly. He 
was glad, in the end, to appear the more self- 
possessed of the two. 

• ••.•• 
The course of Lily's illness ran smooth, and 

as the days passed Waythorn grew used to the 
idea of Haskett's weekly visit The first time 
the day came round, he stayed out late, and 
questioned his wife as to the visit on his return. 
She replied at once that Haskett had merely 
seen the nurse downstairs, as the doctor did not 



wish any one in the child's sick-room till after 
the crisis. 

The following week Waythorn was again 
conscious of the recurrence of the day, but had 
forgotten it by the time he came home to 
dinner. The crisis of the disease came a few 
days later, with a rapid decline of fever, and 
the little girl was pronounced out of danger. 
In the rejoicing which ensued, the thought of 
Haskett passed out of Waythorn's mind, and 
one afternoon, letting himself into the house with 
a latch-key, he went straight to his library without 
noticing a shabby hat and umbrella in the hall. 

In the library he found a small efFaced- 
looking man with a thinnish gray beard sitting 
on the edge of a chain The stranger might 
have been a piano -tuner, or one of those 
mysteriously efficient persons who are summoned 
in emergencies to adjust some detail of the 
domestic machinery. He blinked at Waythorn 
through a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles and 
said mildly : * Mr. Waythorn, I presume ? I 
am Lily's father.' 

Waythorn flushed. * Oh ' he stammered 

uncomfortably. He broke off, disliking to 
appear rude. Inwardly he was trying to adjust 
the actual Haskett to the image of him pro- 
jected by his wife's reminiscences. Waythorn 
had been allowed to infer that Alice's first 
husband was a brute. 

* I am sorry to intrude,' said Haskett, with 
his over-the-counter politeness. 


•Don't mention it/ returned Waythom, 
collecting himself. *I suppose the nurse has 
been told ? * 

*1 presume so. I can wait/ ssdd Haskett. 
He had a resigned way of speaking, as though 
life had worn down his natural powers of re- 

Waythom stood on the threshold, nervously 
pulling off his gloves. 

* I'm sorry you've been detained. I will send 
for the nurse/ he said ; and as he opened the 
door he added with an effort : ^ I'm glad we 
can give you a good report of lily.' He winced 
as the we slipped out, but Haskett seemed not 
to notice it. 

* Thank you, Mr. Waythorn. It's been an 
anxious time for me.' 

* Ah, well, that's past. Soon she'll be able to 
go to you.' Waythorn nodded and passed out. 

In his own room he flung himself down with 
a groan. He hated the womanish sensibility 
which made him suflFer so acutely from the 
grotesque chances of life. He had known when 
he married that his wife's former husbands were 
both living, and that amid the multiplied con- 
tacts of modern existence there were a thousand 
chances to one that he would run against one 
or the other, yet he found himself as much dis- 
turbed by his brief encounter with Haskett as 
though the law had not obligingly removed all 
difficulties in the way of their meeting. 

Waythorn sprang up and began to pace the 


room nervously. He had not suffered half as 
much from his two meetings with Varick. It 
was Haskett's presence in his own house that 
made the situation so intolerable. He stood 
still, hearing steps in the passage. 

* This way, please,* he heard the nurse say. 
Haskett was being taken upstairs, then : not 
a corner of the house but was open to him. 
Waythorn dropped into another chair, staring 
vaguely ahead of him. On his dressing-table 
stood a photograph of Alice, taken when he 
had first known her. She was Alice Varick 
then — ^how fine and exquisite he had thought 
her! Those were Varick's pearls about her 
neck. At Waythorn's instance they had been 
returned before her marriage. Had Haskett 
ever given her any trinkets — and what had 
become of them, Waythorn wondered ? He 
realized suddenly that he knew very little of 
Haskett's past or present situation ; but from 
the man's appearance and manner of speech he 
could reconstruct with curious precision the 
surroundings of Alice's first marriage. And it 
startled him to think that she had, in the back- 
ground of her life, a phase of existence so 
difierent from anything with which he had con- 
nected her. Varick, whatever his faults, was a 
gentleman, in the conventional, traditional sense 
of the term : the sense which at that moment 
seemed, oddly enough, to have most meaning 
to Waythorn. He and Varick had the same 
social habits, spoke the same language, imder- 


stood the same allusions. But this other man 
... it was grotesquely uppermost in Way- 
thorn's mind that Haskett had worn SLjnzdc^^^ 
tie attached with an elastic. Why should that 
ridiculous detail symboHze the whole man ? 
Waythorn was exasperated by his own paltri- 
ness, but the fact of the tie expanded, forced 
itself on him, became as it were the key to 
Alice's past. He could see her, as Mrs. Haskett, 
sitting in a ^ front parlour ' furnished in plush, 
with a pianola, and a copy of * Ben Hur ' on 
the centre-table. He could see her going to 
the theatre with Haskett — or perhaps even to 
a • Church Sociable ' — she in a * picture hat ' and 
Haskett in a black frock-coat, a little creased, 
with the made-up tie on an elastic. On the way 
home they would stop and look at the illumin- 
ated shop-windows, lingering over the photo- 
graphs of New York actresses. On Sunday 
afternoons Haskett would take her for a walk, 
pushing Lily ahead of them in a white enamelled 
perambulator, and Waythorn had a vision of the 
people they would stop and talk to. He could 
fancy how pretty Alice must have looked, in a 
dress adroitly constructed from the hints of a 
New York fashion-paper, and how she must 
have looked down on the other women, chafing 
at her life, and secretly feeling that she belonged 
in a bigger place. 

For the moment his foremost thought was 
one of wonder at the way in which she had shed 
the phase of existence which her marriage with 


Haskett implied. It was as if her whole aspect, , 
every gesture, every inflection, every allusion, 
were a studied negation of that period of her 
life. If she had denied being married to Haskett 
she could hardly have stood more convicted of ^ 
duplicity than in this obliteration of the self ^ 
which had been his wife. v 

Waythorn started up, checking himself in 
the analysis of her motives. What right had he 
to create a fantastic effigy of her and then pass 
judgment on it ? She had spoken vaguely of 
her first marriage as unhappy, had hinted, with 
becoming reticence, that Haskett had wrought 
havoc among her young illusions. ... It was 
a pity for Waythorn's peace of mind that 
Haskett*s very inoffensiveness shed a new light 
on the nature of those illusions. A man would 
rather think that his wife has been brutalized by 
her first husband than that the process has been 


*Mr. Waythorn, I don't like that French 
governess of Lily's.* 

Haskett, subdued and apologetic, stood before 
Waythorn in the library, revolving his shabby 
hat in his hand. 

Waythorn, surprised in his armchair over 
the evening paper, stared back perplexedly at 
his visitor. 

* You'll excuse my asking to see you,' Haskett 
continued. 'But this is my last visit, and I 
thought if I could have a word with you it 
would be a better way than writing to Mrs. 
Waythorn's lawyer.' 

Waythorn rose uneasily. He did not like 
the French governess either ; but that was 

* I am not so sure of that,' he returned stiffly ; 
* but since you wish it I will give your message 
to — my wife.' He always hesitated over the 
possessive pronoun in addressing Haskett. 

The latter sighed. * I don t know as that 
will help much. She didn't like it when I spoke 
to her.' 



Waythorn turned red. • When did you see 
her ? ' he asked. 

* Not since the first day I came to see lily 
— right after she was taken sick. I remarked 
to her then that I didn't like the governess.' 

Waythorn made no answer. He remem- 
bered distinctly that, after that first visit, he 
had asked his wife if she had seen Haskett. 
She had lied to him then, but she had respected 
his wishes since ; and the incident cast a curious 
light on her character. He was sure she would 
not have seen Haskett that first day if she had 
divined that Waythorn would object, and the 
fact that she did not divine it was almost as 
disagreeable to the latter as the discovery that 
she had lied to him. 

*I don't like the woman,* Haskett was 
repeating with mild persistency. *She ain't 
straight, Mr. Waythorn — she'll teach the child 
to be underhand. I've noticed a change in 
lily — she's too anxious to please — and she 
don't always tell the truth. She used to be the 

straightest child, Mr. Waythorn ' He 

broke oflF, his voice a little thick. •Not but 
what I want her to have a stylish education,' he 

Waythorn was touched. •I'm sorry, Mr. 
Haskett ; but frankly, I don't quite see what 
I can do.' 

Haskett hesitated. Then he laid his hat on 
the table, and advanced to the hearth-rug, on 
which Waythorn was standing. There was 


nothing aggressive in his manner, but he had 
the solemnity of a timid man resolved on a 
decisive measure. 

* There's just one thing you can do, Mr. 
Waythorn/ he said. *You can remind Mrs. 
Waythorn that, by the decree of the courts, I 
am entitled to have a voice in Lily's bringing 
up.' He paused, and went on more depre- 
catingly : * I'm not the kind to talk about 
enforcing my rights, Mr. Waythorn. I don't 
know as I think a man is entitled to rights he 
hasn't known how to hold on to ; but this 
business of the child is different. I've never let 
go there — and I never mean to.' 

• •.•«. 
The scene left Waythorn deeply shaken. 

Shamefacedly, in indirect ways, he had been 
finding out about Haskett ; and all that he had 
learned was favourable. The little man, in 
order to be near his daughter, had sold out his 
share in a profitable business in Utica, and 
accepted a modest clerkship in a New York 
manufacturing house. He boarded in a shabby 
street and had few acquaintances. His passion 
for lily filled his life. Waythorn felt that this 
exploration of Haskett was like groping about 
with a dark-lantern in his wife's past ; but he 
saw now that there were recesses his lantern 
had not explored. He had never enquired into 
the exact circumstances of his wife's first matri- 
monial rupture. On the surface all had been 
fair. It was she who had obtained the divorce. 


and the court had given her the child. But 
Waythorn knew how many ambiguities such 
a verdict might cover. The mere fact that 
Haskett retained a right over his daughter 
implied an unsuspected compromise. Way- 
thorn was an idealist. He always refused to 
recognize unpleasant contingencies till he found 
himself confronted with them, and then he saw 
them followed by a spectral train of consequences. 
His next days were thus haunted, and he deter- 
mined to try to lay the ghosts by conjuring 
them up in Ws wife's presence. 

When he repeated Haskett's request a flame 
of anger passed over her face ; but she subdued 
it instantly and spoke with a slight quiver of 
outraged motherhood. 

* It is very ungentlemanly of him/ she said. 
The word grated on Waythorn. •That is 

neither here nor there. It's a bare question of 

She murmured : * It's not as if he could ever 
be a help to Lily * 

Waythorn flushed. This was even less to 
his taste. * The question is,' he repeated, ' what 
authority has he over her ? ' 

She looked downward, twisting herself a little 
in her seat. *I am willing to see him — I thought 
you objected,' she faltered. 

In a flash he understood that she knew the 
extent of Haskett's claims. Perhaps it was not 
the first time she had resisted them. 

* My objecting has nothing to do with it,' 



he said coldly ; * if Haskett has a right to be 
consulted you must consult him/ 

She burst into tears, and he saw that she 
expected him to regard her as a victim. 

Haskett did not abuse his rights. Waythorn 
had felt miserably sure that he would not. But 
the governess was dismissed, and from time to 
time the little man demanded an interview with 
Alice. After the first outburst she accepted the 
situation with her usual adaptab^ity. Haskett 
had once reminded Waythorn of^the piano- 
tuner, and Mrs. Waythorn, after a month or 
two, appeared to class him with that domestic 
familiar. Waythorn could not but respect the 
father*s tenacity. At first he had tried to 
cultivate the suspicion that Haskett might be 
^up to' something, that he had an object in 
securing a foothold in the house. But in his 
heart Waythorn was sure of Haskett's single- 
mindedness; he even guessed in the latter a 
mild contempt for such advantages as his 
relation with the Waythorns might offer. 
Haskett's sincerity of purpose made him in- 
vulnerable, and his successor had to accept him 
as a lien on the property. 

• •.••• 

Mr. Sellers was sent to Europe to recover 
from his gout, and Vmck's affairs hung on 
Waythorn's hands. The negotiations were pro- 
longed and complicated ; they necessitated fre- 
quent conferences between the two men, and 
the interests of the firm forbade Waythorn's 


suggesting that his client should transfer his 
business to another office. 

Varick appeared well in the transaction. In 
moments of relaxation his coarse streak appeared, 
and Waythorn dreaded his geniality ; but in the 
office he was concise and clear-headed, with a 
flattering deference to Waythorn's judgment. 
Their business relations being so afllably estab- 
lished, it would have been absurd for the two 
men to ignore each other in society. The first 
time they met in a drawing-room, Varick took 
up their intercourse in the same easy key, and his 
hostesses grateful glance obliged Waythorn to 
respond to it. After that they ran across each 
other frequently, and one evening at a ball 
Waythorn, wandering through the remoter 
rooms, came upon Varick seated beside his 
wife. She coloured a little, and faltered in what 
she was saying ; but Varick nodded to Waythorn 
without rising, and the latter strolled on. 

In the carriage, on the way home, he broke out 
nervously : *I didn't know you spoke to Varick.* 

Her voice trembled a little. * It's the first 
time — he happened to be standing near me ; 
I didn't know what to do. It's so awkward, 
meeting everywhere — and he said you had been 
very kind about some business.' 

* That's diflFerent,' said Waythorn. 

She paused a moment. * I'll do just as you 
wish,' she returned pliantly. *I thought it 
would be less awkward to speak to him when 
we meet.* 


Her pliancy was beginning to sicken him. 
Had she really no will of her own — no theory 
about her relation to these men ? She had 
accepted Haskett — did she mean to accept 
Varick ? It was • less awkward/ as she had 
said, and her instinct was to evade difficulties or 
: to circumvent them. With sudden vividness 
Waythorn saw how the instinct had developed. 
She was ' as easy as an old shoe ' — a shoe that 
too many feet had worn. Her elasticity was 
the result of tension in too many different ^ 

directions. Alice Haskett — Alice Varick — 
Alice Waythorn — she had been each in turn, 
and had left hanging to each name a little of 
her privacy, a little of her personality, a little 
of the inmost self where the unknown god 
abides. ^ 

*Yes — it's better to speak to Varick/ said j 

Waythorn wearily. 


The winter wore on, and society took advan- 
tage of the Waythorns' acceptance of Varick. 
Harassed hostesses were grateful to them for 
bridging over a social difficulty, and Mrs. 
Waythorn was held up as a miracle of good 
taste. Some experimental spirits could nof 
resist the diversion of throwing Varick and his 
former wife together, and there were those who 
thought he found a zest in the propinquity. 
But Mrs. Waythorn's conduct remained irre- 
proachable. She neither avoided Varick nor 
sought him out. Even Waythorn could not 
but admit that she had discovered the solution 
of the newest social problem. 

He had married her without giving much 
thought to that problem. He had fancied that 
a woman can shed her past like a man. But 
now he saw that Alice was bound to hers both 
by the circumstances which forced her into 
continued relation with it, and by the traces it 
had left on her nature. With grim irony 
Waythorn compared himself to a member of a 
syndicate. He held so many shares in his wife's 



personality and his predecessors were his part- 
ners in the business. If there had been any 
element of passion in the transaction he would 
have felt less deteriorated by it. The fact that 
Alice took her change of husbands like a change 
of weather reduced the situation to mediocrity. 
He could have forgiven her for blunders, for 
excesses ; for resisting Haskett, for yielding to 
Varick ; for anything but her acquiescence and 
her tact. She reminded him of a juggler tossing 
knives ; but the knives were blunt and she 
knew they would never cut her. 

And then, gradually, habit formed a pro- 
tecting surface for his sensibilities. If he paid 
for each day's comfort with the small change of 
his illusions, he grew daily to value the comfort 
more and set less store upon the coin. He had 
drifted into a dulling propinquity with Haskett 
and Varick and he took refuge in the cheap 
revenge of satirizing the situation. He even 
began to reckon up the advantages which 
accrued from it, to ask himself if it were not 
better to own a third of a wife who knew how 
to make a man happy than a whole one who 
had lacked opportunity to acquire the art. For 
it was an art, and made up, like all others, of 
concessions, eliminations and embellishments ; 
of lights judiciously thrown and shadows skil- 
fully softened. His wife knew exactly how to 
manage the lights, and he knew exactly to what 
training she owed her skill. He even tried to 
trace the source of his obligations, to discrimi- 


nate between the influences which had combined 
to produce his domestic happiness : he perceived 
that Haskett's commonness had made Alice 
worship good breeding, while Varick's liberal 
construction of the marriage bond had taught 
her to value the conjugal virtues ; so that he 
was directly indebted to his predecessors for 
the devotion which made his life easy if not 

From this phase he passed into that of com- 
plete acceptance. He ceased to satirize himself 
because time dulled the irony of the situation 
and the joke lost its humour with its sting. 
Even the sight of Haskett's hat on the hall table 
had ceased to touch the springs of epigram. The 
hat was often seen there now, for it had been 
decided that it was better for Lily's father to 
visit her than for the little girl to go to his 
boarding-house. Waythorn, having acquiesced 
in this arrangement, had been surprised to find 
how little difference it made. Haskett was never 
obtrusive, and the few visitors who met him on 
the stairs were unaware of his identity. Way- 
thorn did not know how often he saw Alice, but 
with himself Haskett was seldom in contact. 

One afternoon, however, he learned on enter- 
ing that Lily*s father was waiting to see him. 
In the library he found Haskett occupying a 
chjur in his usual provisional way. Waythorn 
always felt grateful to him for not leaning back. 

*I hope you'll excuse me, Mr. Waythorn,' 
he said, rising. * I wanted to see Mrs. Waythorn 


about Lily, and your man asked me to wait here 
till she came in/ 

* Of course/ said Waythom, remembering 
that a sudden leak had that morning given over 
the drawing-room to the plumbers. 

He opened his cigar-case and held it out to 
his visitor, and Haskett's acceptance seemed to 
mark a fresh stage in their intercourse. The 
spring evening was chilly, and Waythorn invited 
his guest to draw up his chair to the fire. He 
meant to find an excuse to leave Haskett in a 
moment ; but he was tired and cold, and after 
all the little man no longer jarred on him. 

The two were enclosed in the intimacy of 
their blended cigar-smoke when the door opened 
and Varick walked into the room. Waythorn 
rose abrupdy. It was the first time that Varick 
had come to the house, and the surprise of seeing 
him, combined with the singular inopportune- 
ness of his arrival, gave a new edge to Way thorn*s 
blunted sensibilities. He stared at his visitor 
without speaking. 

Varick seemed too preoccupied to notice his 
host's embarrassment 

* My dear fellow,' he exclaimed in his most 
expansive tone, • I must apologize for tumbling 
in on you in this way, but I was too late to catch 
you down town, and so I thought ' 

He stopped short, catching sight of Haskett, 
and his sanguine colour deepened to a flush which 
spread vividly under his scant blond hair. But 
in a moment he recovered himself and nodded 


slightly. Haskett returned the bow in silence, 
and Waythorn was still groping for speech when 
the footman came in carrying a tea-table. 

The intrusion offered a welcome vent to 
Waythorn*s nerves. * What the deuce are you 
bringing this here for ? * he said sharply. 

* I beg your pardon, sir, but the plumbers are 
still in the drawing-room, and Mrs. Waythorn 
said she would have tea in the library.' The 
footman's perfectly respectful tone implied a 
reflection on Waythorn's reasonableness. 

*Oh, very well,' said the latter resignedly, 
and the footman proceeded to open the folding 
tea-table and set out its complicated appoint- 
ments. While this interminable process con- 
tinued the three men stood motionless, watching 
it with a fascinated stare, till Waythorn, to break 
the silence, said to Varick : * Won't you have 
a cigar ? * 

He held out the case he had just tendered 
to Haskett, and Varick helped himself with a 
smile. Waythorn looked about for a match, 
and finding none, proffered a light from his own 
cigar. Haskett, in the background, held his 
ground mildly, examining his cigar-tip now and 
then, and stepping forward at the right moment 
to knock its ashes into the fire. 

The footman at last withdrew, and Varick 
immediately began : * If I could just say half a 
word to you about this business ' 

* Certainly,' stammered Waythorn ; ^ in the 
dining-room * 


But as he placed his hand on the door it 
opened from without, and his wife appeared on 
the threshold. 

She came in fresh and smiling, in her street 
dress and hat, shedding a fragrance from the boa 
which she loosened in advancing. 

* Shall we have tea in here, dear ? ' she began ; 
and then she caught sight of Varick. Her smile 
deepened, veUing a slight tremor of surprise. 

* Why, how do you do ? ' she said with a 
distinct note of pleasure. 

As she shook hands with Varick she saw 
Haskett standing behind him. Her smile faded 
for a moment, but she recalled it quickly, with 
a scarcely perceptible side-glance at Waydiorn. 

* How do you do, Mr. Haskett ? ' she said, 
and shook hands with him a shade less cordially. 

The three men stood awkwardly before her, 
till Varick, always the most self-possessed, dashed 
into an explanatory phrase. 

< We — I had to see Waythorn a moment on 
business,' he stammered, brick-red from chin to 

Haskett stepped forward with his air of mild 
obstinacy. * I am sorry to intrude ; but you 

appointed five o'clock * he directed his 

resigned glance to the timepiece on the mantel. 

She swept aside their embarrassment with a 
charming gesture of hospitality. 

* I'm so sorry — I'm always late ; but the 
afternoon was so lovely.' She stood drawing 
off her gloves, propitiatory and graceful, diffiis- 


ing about her a sense of ease and familiarity in 
which the situation lost its grotesqueness. ^ But 
before talking business/ she added brightly, 
* Fm sure every one wants a cup of tea/ 

She dropped into her low chair by the tea- 
table, and the two visitors, as if drawn by her 
smile, advanced to receive the cups she held out. 

She glanced about for Waythorn, and he 
took the third cup with a laugh. 






* I CAN never/ said Mrs. Fetherel, * hear the bell 
ring without a shudder/ 

lier unruffled aspect — ^she was the kind of 
woman whose emotions never communicate 
themselves to her clothes — and the conventional 
background of the New York drawing-room, 
with its pervading implication of an imminent 
tea-trav and of an atmosphere in which the 
social mnctions have become purely reflex, lent 
to her declaration a relief not lost on her cousin 
Mrs, Clinch, who, from the other side of the 
fireplace, agreed, with a glance at the clock, that 
it was the hour for bores. 

* Bores ! ' cried Mrs. Fetherel impatiently. 
^ If I shuddered at themy I should have a chronic 
ague !' 

She leaned forward and laid a sparkling finger 
on her cousin's shabby black knee. * I mean the 
newspaper dippings.' she whispered 

Mrs. Clinch returned a glance of mteUigence. 

* They've begun already ? ' 

* Not yet ; but they're sure to now, at any 
minute, my publisher tells me.' 



Mrs. Fetherd's look of apprehension sat 
oddly on her small features, which had an air 
of neat symmetry somehow suggestive of being 
set in order every morning by the housemaid. 
Some one (there were rumours that it was her 
cousin) had once said that Paula Fetherel would 
have been very pretty if she hadn't looked so 
like a moral axiom in a copy-book hand. 

Mrs. Clinch received her confidence with a 
smile. * Well/ she said, * I suppose you were 
prepared for the consequences of authorship ? ' 

Mrs. Fetherel blushed brightly. *It isn't 
their coming,* she owned — *it*s their coming 

• Now ?; 

* The Bishop's in town.* 

Mrs. Clinch leaned back and shaped her lips 
to a whistie which deflected in a laugh. * Well 1 * 
she said. 

* You see ! * Mrs. Fetherel triumphed. 

* Well — weren*t you prepared for the Bishop?* 
^ Not now — at least, I hadn*t thought of his 

seeing the clippings.* 

* And why should he see them ? * 

* Bella — worCt you understand ? It*s John.* 

^ Who has taken the most unexpected tone — 
one might almost say out of perversity.* 

* Oh, perversity ' Mrs. Clinch murmured, 

observing her cousin between lids wrinkled by 
amusement. * What tone has John taken ? * 

Mrs. Fetherel threw out her answer with the 


desperate gesture of a woman who lays bare the 
traces of a marital fist. *The tone of being 
proud of my book.' 

The measure of Mrs. Clinch's enjoyment 
overflowed in laughter. 

* Oh, you may laugh,* Mrs. Fetherel insisted, 
*but it's no joke to me. In the first place, 
John's liking the book is so— so — such a false 
note — ^it puts me in such a ridiculous position ; 
and then it has set him watching for the reviews 
— ^who would ever have suspected John of know- 
ing that books were reviewed? Why, he's 
actually found out about the Clipping Bureau, 
and whenever the postman rings I hear John 
rush Out of the library to see if there are any 
yellow envelopes. Of course, when they do 
come he'll bring them into the drawing-room 
and read them aloud to everybody who happens 
to be here — and the Bishop is sure to happen to 
be here ! ' 

Mrs. Clinch repressed her amusement. * The 
picture you draw is a lurid one,' she conceded, 
* but your modesty strikes me as abnormal, 
especially in an author. The chances are that 
some of the clippings will be rather pleasant 
reading. The critics are not all Union men.' 

Mrs. Fetherel stared. * Union men ? ' 

*Well, I mean they don't all belong to the 
well-known Society-for - the -Persecution - of- 
Rising- Authors. Some of them have even been 
known to defy its regulations and say a good 
word for a new writer.' 


*Oh, I dare say,* said Mrs. Fetherel, with 
the laugh her cousin's epigram exacted. ' But 
you don't quite see my point. I'm not at all 
nervous about the success of my book — my 
publisher tells me I have no need to be — but I 
am afraid of its being a succis de scandale^ 

* Mercy ! ' said IMts. Clinch, sitting up. 

The butler and footman at this moment 
appeared with the tea-tray, and when they had 
withdrawn, Mrs. Fetherel, bending her brightly 
rippled head above the kettle, continued in a 
murmur of avowal : * The title, even, is a kind 
of challenge.' 

* " Fast and Loose," ' Mrs. Clinch mused. 
* Yes, it ought to take.* 

^ I didn't choose it for that reason ! * the 
author protested. *I should have preferred 
something quieter — less pronounced ; but I 
was determined not to shirk the responsibility 
of what 1 had written. I want people to know 
beforehand exactly what kind of book they are 

* Well,' said Mrs. Clinch, * that's a degree of 
conscientiousness that I've never met with before. 
So few books fulfil the promise of their titles 
that experienced readers never expect the fare 
to come up to the menu.* 

* " Fast and Loose " will be no disappoint- 
ment on that score,* her cousin significantly 
returned. * I've handled the subject without 
gloves. I've called a spade a spade.* 

* You simply make my mouth water ! And 


to think I haven't been able to read it yet 
because every spare minute of my time has been 
given to correcting the proofs of "How the 
Birds Keep Christmas " ! There's an instance of 
the hardships of an author's life ! ' 

Mrs. Fetherel's eye clouded. * Don't joke, 
Bella, please. I suppose to experienced authors 
there's always something absurd in the nervous- 
ness of a new writer, but in my case so much is 
at stake ; I've put so much of myself into this 
book and I'm so afraid of being misunderstood 
... of being, as it were, in advance of my 
time . . . like poor Flaubert. ... I know 
you'll think me ridiculous . . . and if only my 
own reputation were at stake, I should never 
give it a thought . . . but the idea of dragging 
John's name through the mire . . .' 

Mrs. Clinch, who had risen and gathered her 
cloak about her, stood surveying from her genial 
height her cousin's agitated countenance. 

* Why did you use John's name, then ? ' 

* That's another of my difficulties ! I had to. 
There would have been no merit in publishing 
such a book under an assumed name ; it would 
have been an act of moral cowardice. " Fast 
and Loose " is not an ordinary novel. A writer 
who dares to show up the hoUowness of social 
conventions must have the courage of her con- 
victions and be willing to accept the conse- 
quences of defying society. Can you imagine 
Ibsen or Tolstoi writing under a false name ? ' 
Mrs. Fetherel lifted a tragic eye to her cousin. 


* You don't know, Bella, how often Tve envied 
you since I be^an to write. I used to wonder 
sometimes — you won t mmd my saymg so r — 
why, with all yovu- cleverness, you hadn't taken 
up some more exciting subject than natural 
history ; but I sec now how wise you were. 
Whatever happens, you will never be denounced 
by the press ! * 

* Is that what you're afraid of? ' asked Mrs. 
Clinch, as she grasped the bulging umbrella 
which rested against her chair. * My dear, if 
I had ever had the good luck to be denounced 
by the press, my brougham would be waiting 
at the door for me at this very moment, and 
I shouldn't have had to ruin this umbrella by 
using it in the rain. Why, you innocent, if I'd 
ever felt the slightest aptitude for showing up 
social conventions, do you suppose I should 
waste my time writing "Nests Ajar" and 
" How to Smell the Flowers " ? There's a 
fairly steady demand for pseudo-science and 
colloquial ornithology, but it's nothing, simply 
nothing, to the ravenous call for attacks on 
social institutions — especially by those inside the 
institutions ! ' 

There was often, to her cousin, a lack 
of taste in Mrs. Clinch's pleasantries, and on 
this occasion they seemed more than usually 

*"Fast and Loose" was not written with 
the idea of a large sale.' 

Mrs. Clinch was unperturbed. * Perhaps 


that's just as well/ she returned with a philo- 
sophic shrug. *The surprise will be all the 
pleasanter, I mean. For of course it*s going to 
sell tremendously ; especially if you can get the 
press to denounce it.* 

'Bella, how can you? I sometimes think 
you say such things expressly to tease me ; and 
yet I should think you of all women would 
understand my purpose in writing such a book. 
It has always seemed to me that the message I 
had to deliver was not for myself alone, but for 
all the other women in the world who have felt 
the hollowness of our social shams, the ignominy 
of bowing down to the idols of the market, but 
have lacked either the courage or the power 
to proclaim their independence ; and I have 
fancied, Bella dear, that, however severely society 
might punish me for revealing its weaknesses, 
I could count on the sympathy of those who, 
like you * — Mrs. FethereFs voice sank — * have 
passed through the deep waters.* 

Mrs. Clinch gave herself a kind of canine 
shake, as though to free her ample shoulders 
from any drop of the element she was supposed 
to have traversed. 

*Oh, call them muddy rather than deep,' 
she returned ; * and you'll find, my dear, that 
women who've had any wading to do are rather 
shy of stirring up mud. It sticks — especially 
on white clothes.' 

Mrs. Fetherel lifted an undaunted brow. 
* I'm not afraid,' she proclaimed ; and at the 


same instant she dropped her tea-spoon with a 
clatter and shrank back into her seat. ^ There's 
the bell/ she exclaimed, * and I know it's the 

It was in fact the Bishop of Ossining, who, 
impressively announced by Mrs. Fetherel's 
butler, now made an entry that may best be 
described as not inadequate to the expectations 
the announcement raised. The Bishop always 
entered a room well ; but, when unannounced, or 
preceded by a Low Church butler who gave him 
his surname, his appearance lacked the impress- 
iveness conferred on it by the due specification 
of his diocesan dignity. The Bishop was very 
fond of his niece Mrs. Fetherel, and one of the 
traits he most valued in her was the possession of 
a butler who knew how to announce a bishop. 

Mrs. Clinch was also his niece ; but, aside 
from the fact that she possessed no butler at all, 
she had laid herself open to her uncle's criticism 
by writing insignificant little books which had a 
way of going into five or ten editions, while the 
fruits of his own episcopal leisure — * The Wail 
of Jonah * (twenty cantos in blank verse), and 
* Through a Glass Brightly ; or, How to Raise 
Funds for a Memorial Window * — ^inexplicably 
languished on the back shelves of a publisher 
noted for his dexterity in pushing * devotional 
goods.' Even this indiscretion the Bishop 
might, however, have condoned, had his niece 
thought fit to turn to him for support and 
advice at the painful juncture of her history 


when, in her own words, it became necessary for 
her to invite Mr. Clinch to look out for another 
situation. Mr. Clinch's misconduct was of the 
kind especially designed by Providence to test 
the fortitude of a Christian wife and mother, 
and the Bishop was absolutely distended with 
seasonable advice and edification ; so that when 
Bella met his tentative exhortations with the curt 
remark that she preferred to do her own house- 
cleaning unassisted, her uncle's grief at her 
ingratitude was not untempered with sympathy 
for Mr. Clinch. 

It is not surpri^ng, therefore, that the 
Bishop's warmest greetings were always reserved 
for Mrs. Fetherel ; and on this occasion Mrs. 
Clinch thought she detected, in the salutation 
which fell to her share, a pronounced suggestion 
that her own presence was superfluous — a hint 
which she took with her usual imperturbable 
good humour. 


Left alone with the Bishop, Mrs, Fcthcrel 
sought the nearest refuge from conversation by 
offering him a cup of tea. The Bishop accepted 
with the preoccupied air of a man to whom, for 
the moment, tea is but a subordinate incident. 
Mrs. Fetherel's nervousness increased ; and 
knowing that the surest way of distracting 
attention from one's own affairs is to affect an 
interest in those of one's companion, she hastily 
asked if her uncle had come to town on business. 

* On business — yes ' said the Bishop in 

an impressive tone. * I had to see my publisher, 
who has been behaving rather unsatisfactorily in 
regard to my last book.' 

* Ah — your last book ?' faltered Mrs. Fetherel, 
with a sickening sense of her inability to recall 
the name or nature of the work in question, 
and a mental vow never again to be caught in 
such ignorance of a colleague's productions. 

• " Through a Glass Brightly," ' the Bishop 
explained, with an emphasis which revealed his 
detection of her predicament. * You may re- 
member that I sent you a copy last Christmas ? ' 


* Of course I do ! * Mrs. Fetherel brightened. 
*It was that delightful story of the poor 
consumptive girl who had no money, and two 
little brothers to support ' 

* Sisters — idiot sisters * the Bishop 

gloomily corrected. 

^ I mean sisters ; and who managed to collect 
money enough to put up a beautiful memorial 
window to her — ^her grandfather, whom she had 
never seen ' 

*But whose sermons had been her chief 
consolation and support during her long struggle 
with poverty and disease.' The Bishop gave 
the satisfied sigh of the workman who reviews 
his completed task. * A touching subject, surely ; 
and I believe I did it justice ; at least, so my 
friends assured me.' 

* Why, yes — I remember there was a splendid 
review of it in the Reredos ! ' cried Mrs. 
Fetherel, moved by the incipient instinct of 

*Yes — by my dear friend Mrs. GoUingcr, 
whose husband, the late Dean GoUinger, was 
under very particular obUgations to me. Mrs. 
Gollinger is a woman of rare literary acumen, 
and her praise of my book was unqualified ; but 
the public wants more highly seasoned fare, and 
the approval of a thoughtful churchwoman 
carries less weight than the sensational comments 
of an illiterate journalist.' The Bishop bent a 
meditative eye on his spotless gaiters. * At the 
risk of horrifying you, my dear,' he added, with 


a slight laugh, * I will confide to you that my 
best chance of a popular success would be to 
have my book denounced by the press.' 

• Denounced ? * gasped Mrs. Fetherd. * On 
what ground ? ' 

* On the ground of immorality.' The Bishop 
evaded her startled gaze. ^Such a thing is 
inconceivable to you, of course ; but I am only 
repeating what my publisher tdls me. If, for 
instance, a critic could be induced — I mean, if a 
critic were to be found, who called in question 
the morality of my heroine in sacrificing her 
own health and that of her idiot sisters in order 
to put up a memorial window to her grand- 
father, it would probably raise a general contro- 
versy in the newspapers, and I might count on 
a sale of ten or fifteen thousand within the next 
year. If he described her as morbid or deca- 
dent, it might even run to twenty thousand ; 
but that is more than I permit myself to hope. 
In fact I should be satisfied with any general 
charge of immorality.* The Bishop sighed 
again. * I need hardly tell you that I am actuated 
by no mere literary ambition. Those whose 
opinion I most value have assured me that the 
book is not without merit ; but, though it does 
not become me to dispute their veroict, I can 
truly say that my vanity as an author is not at 
stake. I have, however, a special reason for 
wishing to increase the circulation of " Through 
a Glass Brightly ** ; it was written for a purpose 
— z purpose I have greatly at heart ■ ' 


*I know,* cried his niece sympathetically. 

* The chantry window ? ' 

* Is still empty, alas ! and I had great hopes 
that, under Providence, my little book might 
be the means of filling it. All our wealthy 
parishioners have given lavishly to the cathedral, 
and it was for this reason that, in writing 
"Through a Glass," I addressed my appeal 
more especially to the less well-endowed, hoping 
by the example of my heroine to stimulate the 
collection of small sums throughout the entire 
diocese, and perhaps beyond it. I am sure,' the 
Bishop feelingly concluded, *the book would 
have a wide-spr^d influence if people could only 
be induced to read it ! * 

His conclusion touched a fresh thread of 
association in Mrs. Fetherel's vibrating nerve- 
centres. * I never thought of that ! * she cried. 

The Bishop looked at her enquiringly. 

^ That one's books may not be read at all ! 
How dreadful I ' she exclaimed. 

He smiled faintly. ^I had not forgotten 
that I was addressing an authoress,' he said. 

* Indeed, I should not have dared to inflict my 
troubles on any one not of the craft.' 

Mrs. Fetherel was quivering with the con- 
sciousness of her involuntary sel^-betrayal. * Oh, 
uncle ! ' she murmured. 

* In fact,' the Bishop continued, with a gesture 
which seemed to brush away her scruples, * I came 
here partly to speak to you about your novel. 
" Fast and Loose," I think you call it ? ' 


Mrs. Fetherel blushed assentingly. 

* And is it out yet ? ' the Bishop continued. 
*It came out about a week ago. But you 

haven't touched your tea and it must be quite 
cold. Let me give you another cup.* 

* My reason for asking,* the Bishop went on, 
with the bland inexorableness with which, in his 
younger days, he had been known to continue a 
sermon after the senior warden had looked four 
times at his watch — ^ my reason for asking is, 
that I hoped I might not be too late to induce 
you to change the title.* 

Mrs. Fetherel set down the cup she had filled. 
« The title ? * she faltered. 

The Bishop raised a reassuring hand. * Don*t 
misunderstand me, dear child ; don*t for a 
moment imagine that I take it to be in any way 
indicative of the contents of the book. I know 
you too well for that. My first idea was that 
it had probably been forced on you by an un- 
scrupulous publisher — ^I know too well to what 
ignoble compromises one may be driven in such 
cases 1 . . .* He paused, as thoi^h to give her 
the opportunity of confirming this conjecture, 
but she preserved an apprehensive silence, and 
he went on, as though taking up the second 
point in his sermon — * Or, again, tne name may 
have taken your fancy without your realizing all 
that it implies to minds more alive than yours to 
offensive innuendoes. It is — ^ahem— excessively 
suggestive, and I hope I am not too late to warn 
you of the false impression it is likely to produce 


on the very readers whose approbation you would 
most value. My friend Mrs. Gollinger, for 

instance * 

Mrs. Fetherel, as the publication of her 
novel testified, was in theory a woman of inde- 
pendent views ; and if in practice she sometimes 
failed to live up to her standard, it was rather 
from an irresistible tendency to adapt herself to 
her environment than from any conscious lack 
of moral courage. The Bishop's exordium had 
excited in her that sense of opposition which 
such admonitions are apt to provoke ; but as he 
went on she felt herself gradually enclosed in an 
atmosphere in which her theories vainly gasped 
for breath. The Bishop had the immense dia- 
lectical advantage of invalidating any conclusions 
at variance with his own by always assuming 
that his premises were among the necessary laws 
of thought. This method, combined with the 
habit of ignoring any classifications but his own, 
created an element in which the first condition 
of existence was the immediate adoption of his 
standpoint ; so that his niece, as she listened, 
seemed to feel Mrs. Gollinger 's Mechlin cap 
spreading its conventual shadow over her rebel- 
lious brow and the Revue de Paris at her elbow 
turning into a copy of the Reredos. She had 
meant to assure her uncle that she was quite 
aware of the significance of the title she had 
chosen, that it had been deliberately selected as 
indicating the subject of her novel, and that the 
book itself had been written in direct defiance of 


the class of readers for whose susceptibilities he 
was alarmed. The words were almost on her 
lips when the irresistible suggestion conveyed by 
the Bishop's tone and language deflected them 
into the apologetic murmur, *Oh, unde, you 

mustn't think — I never meant ' How 

much farther this current of reaction might 
have carried her the historian is unable to com- 
pute, for at this point the door opened and her 
husband entered the room. 

• The first review of your book ! ' he cried, 
flourishing a yellow envelope. * My dear Bishop, 
how lucky you're here ! ' 

Though the trials of married life have been 
classified and catalogued with exhaustive accuracy, 
there is one form of conjugal misery which has 
perhaps received inadequate attention ; and that 
is the suffering of the versatile woman whose 
husband is not equally adapted to all her moods. 
Every woman feels for the sister who is com- 
pelled to wear a bonnet which does not *go' 
with her gown ; but how much sympathy is 
given to her whose husband refuses to harmonize 
with the pose of the moment? Scant justice 
has, for instance, been done to the misunder- 
stood wife whose husband persists in under- 
standing her ; to the submissive helpmate whose 
taskmaster shuns every opportunity of brow- 
beating her, and to the generous and impulsive 
being whose bills are paid with philosophic calm. 
Mrs. Fetherel, as wives go, had been fairly 
exempt from trials of this nature, for her 


husband, if undistinguished by pronounced 
brutality or indifference, had at least the 
negative merit of being her intellectual inferior. 
Landscape-gardeners, who are aware of the 
usefulness of a valley in emphasizing the height 
of a hill, can form an idea of the account to 
which an accomplished woman may turn such 
deficiencies ; and it need scarcely be said that 
Mrs. Fetherel had made the most of her oppor- 
tunities. It was agreeably obvious to every one, 
Fetherel included, that he was not the man to 
appreciate such a woman ; but there are no 
limits to man's perversity, and he did his best 
to invalidate this advantage by admiring her 
without pretending to understand her. What 
she most suffered from was this fatuous approval : 
the maddening sense that, however she conducted 
herself, he would always admire her. Had he 
belonged to the class whose conversational sup- 
pUes are drawn from the domestic circle, his 
wife's name would never have been off his lips ; 
and to Mrs. Fetherel's sensitive perceptions his 
frequent silences were indicative of the fact that 
she was his one topic. 

It was, in part, the attempt to escape this 
persistent approbation that had driven Mrs. 
Fetherel to authorship. She had fancied that 
even the most infatuated husband might be 
counted on to resent, at least negatively, an 
attack on the sanctity of the hearth ; and her 
anticipations were heightened by a sense of the 
unpanionableness of her act. Mrs. Fetherel's 


relations with her husband were in fact com* 
plicated by an irrepressible tendency to be fond 
of him ; and there was a certain pleasure in the 
prospect of a situation that justified the most 
explicit expiation. 

These hopes Fetherel's attitude had already 
defeated. He read the book with enthusiasm, 
he pressed it on his friends, he sent a copy to 
his mother ; and his very soul now hung on the 
verdict of the reviewers. It was perhaps this 
proof of his general ineptitude that made his 
wife doubly alive to his special defects ; so that 
his inopportune entrance was aggravated by the 
very sound of his voice and the hopeless aber* 
ration of his smile. Nothing, to the observant, 
is more indicative of a man's character and 
circumstances than his way of entering a room. 
The Bishop of Ossining, for instance, brought 
with him not only an atmosphere of episcopal 
authority, but an implied opinion on the verbal 
inspiration of the Scriptures and on the attitude 
of the Church toward divorce ; while the appear- 
ance of Mrs. Fetherel's husband produced an 
immediate impression of domestic felicity. His 
mere aspect implied that there was a well-filled 
nursery upstairs ; that his wife, if she did not 
sew on his buttons, at least superintended the 
performance of that task ; that they both went 
to church regularly, and that they dined with 
his mother every Sunday evening punctually at 
seven o'clock. 

All this and more was expressed in the 


afiectionate gesture with which he now raised 
the yellow envelope above Mrs- Fetherel's clutch ; 
and knowing the uselessness of begging him not 
to be silly, she said with a dry despair : * You're 
boring the Bishop horribly.' 

Fetherel turned a radiant eye on that dig- 
nitary. * She bores us all horribly, doesn't she, 
sir ? ' he exulted. 

* Have you read it ? ' ssdd his wife, uncon- 

^Read it? Of course not — it's just this 
minute come. I say. Bishop, you're not 
going ? ' 

*Not till I've heard this,' said the Bishop, 
setding himself in his chair with an indulgent 

His niece glanced at him despairingly. * Don't 
let John's nonsense detain you,' she entreated. 

* Detain him ? That's good,' guffawed 
Fetherel. *It isn't as long as one of his 
sermons — won't take me five minutes to read. 
Here, listen to this, ladies and gentlemen : ** In 
this age of festering pessimism and decadent 
depravity, it is no surprise to the nauseated 
reviewer to open one more volume saturated 
with the fetid emanations of the sewer — 

»> » 

Fetherel, who was not in the habit of read- 
ing aloud, paused with a gasp, and the Bishop 
glanced sharply at his niece, who kept her gaze 
fixed on the tea-cup she had not yet succeeded 
in transferring to his hand. 

* " Of the sewer," ' her husband resumed ; 



* " but his wonder is proportionately great when 
he lights on a novel as sweetly inoffensive as 
Paula Fetherel's *Fast and Loose.* Mrs, 
Fetherel is, we believe, a new hand at fiction, 
and her work reveals frequent traces of inex- 
perience ; but these are more than atoned for 
by her pure fresh view of life and her altc^ether 
unfashionable regard for the reader's moraui sus- 
ceptibilities. Let no one be induced by its 
distinctly misleading title to forego the enjoy- 
ment of this pleasant picture of domestic lire, 
which, in spite of a total lack of force in 
character -drawing and of consecutiveness in 
incident, may be described as a distinctly pretty 
story." " 

91 9 



It was several weeks later that Mrs. Clinch once 
more brought the plebeian aroma of heated 
tramcars and muddy street-crossings into the 
violet-scented atmosphere of her cousin's draw- 

* Well,' she said, tossing a damp bundle of 
proof into the corner of a silk-cushioned bergere, 
'Fve read it at last and I'm not so awfully 
shocked ! ' 

Mrs. Fetherel, who sat near the fire with her 
head propped on a languid hand, looked up 
without speaking. 

* Mercy, Paula,* said her visitor, • you're ill.* 
Mrs. Fetherel shook her head. * I was never 

better,' she said, mournfully. 

* Then may I help myself to tea ? Thanks.* 
Mrs. Clinch carefully removed her mended 

glove before taking a buttered tea-cake ; then 
she glanced again at her cousin. 

* It's not what I said just no w i * she 

* Just now ? * 



* About *' Fast and Loose " ? I came to talk 
it over/ 

Mrs, Fethercl sprang to her feet * I never,' 
she cried dramatically, 'want to hear it men- 
tioned again ! * 

* Paula ! ' exdsdmed Mrs. Clinch, setting 
down her cup. 

Mrs. Fetherd slowly turned on her an eye 
brimming with the mconununicable ; then; 
dropping into her seat again, she added, with a 
tragic laugh : * There's nothing left to say.' 

* Nothmg ? ' faltered Mrs. Clinch, long- 
ing for another tea-cake, but feeling the in- 
appropriateness of the impulse in an atmosphere 
so charged with the portentous. *Do you 
mean that everything has been said ? ' She 
looked tentativdy at her cousin. ' Haven't they 
been nice ? ' 

* They've been odious — odious * Mrs. 

Fetherel burst out, with an ineffectual clutch at 
her handkerchief. * It's been perfectly intoler- 

Mrs. Clinch, philosophically resigning herself 
to the propriety of taking no more tea, crossed 
over to her cousin and laid a sympathizing hand 
on that lady's agitated shoulder. 

* It is a bore at first,' she conceded ; * but 
you'll be surprised to see how soon one gets 
used to it.' 

*I shall — never — get — used to it,' Mrs. 
Fetherel brokenly declared. 

* Have they been so very nasty — ^all of them? ' 

in - EXPIATION . loi 

* Every one of them ! ' the novelist sdbbedl- ; 

* Tm so sorry, dear ; it does hurt, I know — 
but hadn't you rather expected it ? ' 

* Expected it ? * cried Mrs. Fetherel, sitting 

Mrs. Clinch felt her way warily. *I only 
mean, dear, that I fancied from what you said 
before the book came out — that you rather 
expected — that you'd rather discounted * 

* Their recommending it to everybody as a 
perfectly harmless story ? * 

* Good gracious I Is that what they've 
done ? ' 

Mrs. Fetherel speechlessly nodded. 

* Every one of them ? ' 

* Every one.' 

' Whew ! ' said Mrs. Clinch, with an incipient 

*Why, you've just said it yourself!' her 
cousin suddenly reproached her. 

* Said what ? ' 

* That you weren't so awfully shocked ^ 

* I ? Oh, well — ^you see, you'd keyed me 
up to such a pitch that it wasn't quite as bad as 
I expected ' 

Mrs. Fetherel lifted a smile steeled for the 
worst. * Why not say at once,' she suggested, 
* that it's a distinctly pretty story ? ' 

* They haven't said that ? ' 

* They've all said it' 

* My poor Paula ! ' 

* Even the Bishop—- — ' 


• * *^*»-., .•' 

\Tm Bishop called it a pretty story ?' 
•He wrote me — IVe his letter somewhere. 
The title rather scared him — ^he wanted me to 
change it ; but when he'd read the book he 
wrote that it was ail right and that he'd sent 
several copies to his friends/ 

* The old hypocrite I ' cried Mrs. Clinch. 

• That was nothing but professional jealousy.' 

* Do you think so ? ' cried her cousin, 

* Sure of it, my dear. His own books don't 
sell, and he knew the quickest way to kill yours 
was to distribute it through the diocese with his 

* Then you don't really think it's a pretty 
story ? ' 

* Dear me, no ! Not nearly as bad as 
that ' 

* You're so good, Bella — but the reviewers ? ' 

* Oh, the reviewers,' Mrs. Clinch jeered. 
She gazed meditatively at the cold remains of 
her tea-cake. • Let me see/ she said suddenly ; 

* do you happen to remember if the first review 
came out in an important paper ? ' 

* Yes — the Radiator.^ 

* That's it ! I thought so. Then the others 
simply followed suit : they .often do if a big 
paper sets the pace. Saves a lot of trouble. 
Now if you could only have got the Radiator to 
denounce you ' 

* That's what the Bishop said ! ' cried Mrs. 



* He said his only chance of selling " Through 
a Glass Brightly " was to have it denounced on 
the ground of immorality/ 

*H'm/ said Mrs. Clinch, *I thought he 
knew a trick or two.' She turned an illuminated 
eye on her cousin. * You ought to get him to 
denounce " Fast and Loose " ! ' she cried. 

Mrs. Fetherel looked at her suspiciously. * I 
suppose every book must stand or fall on its 
own merits/ she said in an unconvinced tone. 

* Bosh ! That view is as extinct as the post- 
chaise and the packet -ship— it belongs to the 
time when people read books. Nobody does 
that now ; the reviewer was the first to set the 
example, and the public were only too thankful 
to follow it. At first they read the reviews; 
now they read only the publishers' extracts from 
them. Even these are rapidly being replaced 
by paragraphs borrowed from the vocabulary of 
commerce. I often have to look twice before 
I am sure if I am reading a department-store 
advertisement or the announcement of a new 
batch of literature. The publishers will soon be 
having their **fall and spring openings" and 
their "special importations for Horse -Show 
Week.'* But the Bishop is right, of course — 
nothing helps a book like a rousing attack on 
its morals ; and as the publishers can't exactly 
proclaim the impropriety of their own wares, 
the task has to be left to the press or the 


* * The pulpit ? * Mrs. Fetherd mused. 

*Why, yes — ^look at those two novels in 
England last year——' 

Mrs. Fetherel shook her head hopelessly. 
* There is so much more interest in literature in 
England than here.' 

* Well, we've got to make the supply create 
the demand. The Bishop could run your novel 
up into the hundred thousands in no time.' 

* But if he can't make his own sell ' 

*My dear, a man can't very well preach 

against his own writings ! ' 

Mrs. Clinch rose and picked up her proofs. 

* I'm awfully sorry for you, Paula dear,' she 
concluded, *but I can't help bein^ thankful 
that there's no demand for pessimism in the 
field of natural history. Fancy having to write 
" The Fall of a Sparrow," or " How the Plants 
Misbehave " ! ' 



Mrs. Fetherel, driving up to the Grand 
Central Station one morning about five months 
later, caught sight of the distinguished novelist, 
Archer Hyncs, hurrying into the waiting-room 
ahead of her. Hynes, on his side, recognizing 
her brougham, turned back to greet her as the 
footman opened the carriage-door. 

* My dear colleague ! Is it possible that we 
are travelling together ? * 

Mrs. Fetherel blushed with pleasure. Hynes 
had given her two columns of praise in the 
Sunday Meteor ^ and she had not yet learned to 
disguise her gratitude. 

^ I am going to Ossining,' she said smilingly. 

* So am I. Why, this is almost as good as 
an elopement.' 

* And it will end where elopements ought 
to— in church.' 

* In church ? You're not going to Ossining 
to go to church ? ' 

* Why not ? There's a special ceremony in 
the cathedral — the chantry window is to be 


* The chantry window ? How picturesque ! 
What is a chantry ? And why do you want to 
see it unveiled? Are you after copy— doing 
something in the Huysmans manner? *'La 
athcdrale," eh ? ' 

*Oh, no.' Mrs. Fetherel hesitated. *rm 
going simply to please my uncle,' she said, at last. 

* Your uncle ? ' 

* The Bishop, you know.' She smiled. 
*The Bishop — the Bishop of Ossining? 

Why, wasn't he the chap who made that 
ridiculous attack on your book ? Is that pre- 
historic ass your uncle ? Upon my soul, I 
think you're mighty forgiving to travel all the 
way to Ossining for one of his stained-glass 
sociables I ' 

Mrs. Fetherel's smiles flowed into a gentle 
laugh. * Oh, I've never allowed that to mter- 
fere with our friendship. My uncle felt dread- 
fully about having to speak publicly against my 
book — ^it was a great deal harder for him than 
for me — but he thought it his duty to do so. 
He has the very highest sense of duty.' 

* Well,' said Hynes, with a shrug, * I don't 
know that he didn't do you a good turn. 
Look at that ! ' 

They were standing near the book-stall and 
he pointed to a placard surmounting the counter 
and emblazoned with the conspicuous announce- 
ment : * Fast and Loose. New Edition with 
Author's Portrait. Hundred and Fiftieth 


Mrs. Fethcrel frowned impatiently. *How 
absurd ! They Ve no right to use my picture 
as a poster ! ' 

* There's our train/ said Hynes ; and they 
began to push their way through the crowd 
surging toward one of the inner doors. 

As they stood wedged between circumferent 
shoulders, Mrs. Fetherel became conscious of 
the fixed stare of a pretty girl who whispered 
eagerly to her companion : * Look, Myrtle ! 
That's Paula Fetherdi right behind us — I knew 
her in a minute ! ' 

* Gracious — where ? * cried the other girl, 
giving her head a twist which swept her Gains- 
borough plumes across Mrs. Fetherel's face. 

The first speaker's words had carried beyond 
her companion's ear, and a lemon - coloured 
woman in spectacles, who clutched a copy of 
the * Journal of Psychology ' in one drab-cotton- 
gloved hand, stretched her disengaged hand 
across the intervening barrier of humanity. 

* Have I the privilege of addressing the dis- 
tinguished author of " Fast and Loose " ? If so, 
let me thank you in the name of the Woman's 
Psychological League of Peoria for your mag- 
nificent courage in raising the standard of revolt 
against ' 

*You can tell us the rest in the car,' said 
a fat man, pressing his good-humoured bulk 
against the speaker's arm. 

Mrs. Fetherel, blushing, embarrassed and 
happy, slipped into the space produced by this 


displacement, and a few moments later had 
taken her seat in the train. 

She was a little late, and the other chsurs 
were ah-eady filled by a company of elderly 
ladies and clergymen who seemed to belong to 
the same party, and were sdll busy exchanging 
greetings and settling themselves in their places. 

One of the ladies, at Mrs. Fetherel's approach, 
uttered an exclamation of pleasure and advanced 
with outstretched hand. 'My dear Mrs. 
Fetherel ! I am so delighted to see you here. 
May I hope you are going to the unveiling 
of the chantry window ? The dear Bishop so 
hoped that you would do so ! But perhaps I 
ought to introduce myself. I am Mrs. Gol- 
linger* — ^she lowered her voice expressively — 

* one of your uncle's oldest friends, one who has 
stood close to him through all this sad business, 
and who knows what he suffered when he felt 
obliged to sacrifice family aflFection to the call 
of duty/ 

Mrs. Fetherel, who had smiled and coloured 
slightly at the beginning of this speech, received 
its close with a deprecating gesture. 

* Oh, pray don't mention it,* she murmured. 

* I quite understood how my uncle was placed — 
I bore him no iU-will for feeling obliged to 
preach against my book.' 

^He understood that, and was so touched 
by it ! He has often told me that it was the 
hardest task he was ever called upon to perform 
— and, do you know, he quite feels that this 


unexpected gift of the chantry window is in 
some way a return for his courage in preaching 
that sermon.' 

Mrs. Fetherel smiled faintly. * Does he feel 

* Yes ; he really does. When the funds for 
the window were so mysteriously placed at his 
disposal, just as he had begun to despair of 
raising them, he assured me that he could not 
help connecting the fact with his denunciation 
of your book.' 

* Dear uncle ! ' sighed Mrs. Fetherel. * Did 
he say that ? ' 

* And now,' continued Mrs, Gollinger, with 
cumulative rapture — *now that you are about 
to show, by appearing at the ceremony to-day, 
that there has been no break in your friendly 
relations, the dear Bishop's happiness will be 
complete. He was so longing to have you 
come to the unveiling ! ' 

* He might have coimted on me,' said Mrs. 
Fetherel, still smiling. 

*Ah, that is so beautifully forgiving of 
you ! ' cried Mrs. Gollinger enthusiastically. 
' But then the Bishop has always assured me that 
your real nature was very different from that 
which — if you wiU pardon my saying so — ^seems 
to be revealed by your brilliant but — er — rather 
subversive book. " If you only knew my niece, 
dear Mrs. Gollinger," he always sdd, "you 
would see that her novel was written in all 
innocence of heart " ; and to tell you the truth. 


when I first read the book I didn't think it so 
very, very shocking. It wasn't till the dear 
Bishop had explained to* me — but, dear me, I 
mustn't take up your time in this way when so 
many others are anxious to have a word with 

Mrs. Fetherel glanced at her in surprise, and 
Mrs. GoUinger continued with a playful smile : 
* You forget that your face is faniiliar to thou- 
sands whom you have never seen. We all 
recognized you the moment you entered the 
train, and my friends here are so eager to make 
your acquaintance — even those' — her smile 
deepened — *who thought the dear Bishop not 
quite unjustified in his attack on your remarkable 

A RELIGIOUS light filled the chantry of Ossining 
Cathedral, filtering through the linen curtain 
which veiled the central window and mingling 
with the blaze of tapers on the richly adorned 

In this devout atmosphere, agreeably laden 
with the incense-like aroma of Easter lilies and 
forced lilacs, Mrs. Fetherel knelt with a sense 
of luxurious satisfaction. Beside her sat Archer 
Hynes, who had remembered that there was to 
be a church scene in his next novel and that 
his impressions of the devotional environment 
needed refreshing. Mrs. Fetherel was very 
happy. She was conscious that her entrance 
had sent a thrill through the female devotees 
who packed the chantry, and she had humour 
enough to enjoy the thought that, but for the 
good Bishop's denunciation of her book, the 
heads of his flock would not have been turned 
so eagerly in her direction. Moreover, as she 
entered she had caught sight of a society re- 
porter, and she knew that her presence, and the 
tact that she was accompanied by Hynes, would 



be conspicuously proclaimed in the morning 
papers. All these evidences of the success of 
her handiwork might have turned a calmer head 
than Mrs. Fetherel's ; and though she had now 
learned to dissemble her gratification, it still 
filled her inwardly with a delightful glow. 

The Bishop was somewhat late in appearing, 
and she employed the interval in meditating on 
the plot of^ her next novel, which was already 
partly sketched out, but for which she had been 
unable to find a satisfactory denouement. By 
a not uncommon process of ratiocination, Mrs. 
Fetherel's success had convinced her of her 
vocation. She was sure now that it was her 
duty to lay bare the secret plague-spots of 
society, and she was resolved that there should 
be no doubt as to the purpose of her new book. 
Experience had shown her that where she had 
fancied she was calling a spade a spade she had 
in fact been alluding in guarded terms to the 
drawing-room shovel. She was determined not 
to repeat the same mistake, and she flattered 
herself that her coming novel would not need 
an episcopal denunciation to insure its sale, 
however likely it was to receive this crowning 
evidence of success. 

She had reached this point in her meditations 
when the choir burst into song and the ceremony 
of the unveiling began. The Bishop, almost 
always felicitous in his addresses to the fair sex, 
was never more so than when he was celebrating 
the triumph of one of his cherished purposes. 


There was a peculiar mixture of Christian 
humility and episcopal exultation in the manner 
with which he called attention to the Creator*s 
promptness in responding to his demand for 
funds, and he had never been more happily 
inspired than in eulogizing the mysterious gift 
of the chantry window. 

Though no hint of the donor's identity had 
been allowed to escape him, it was generally 
understood that the Bishop knew who had given 
the window, and the congregation awaited in a 
flutter of suspense the possible announcement 
of a name. None came, however, though the 
Bishop deliciously titillated the curiosity of his 
flock by circling ever closer about the interesting 
secret. He would not disguise from them, he 
said, that the heart which had divined his inmost 
wish had been a woman's — is it not to woman's 
intuitions that more than half the happiness of 
earth is owing ? What man is obliged to learn 
by the laborious process of experience, woman's 
wondrous instinct tells her at a glance ; and so 
it had been with this cherished scheme, this 
unhoped-for completion of their beautiful 
chantry. So much, at least, he was allowed to 
reveal ; and indeed, had he not done so, the 
window itself would have spoken for him, since 
the first glance at its touching subject and 
exquisite design would show it to have originated 
in a woman's heart. This tribute to the sex 
was received with an audible sigh of content- 
ment, and the Bishop, always stimulated by such 



evidence of his sway over his hearers, took up 
his theme with gathering eloquence. 

Yes— a woman's heart had planned the gift, 
a woman's hand had executed it, and, might he 
add, without too far withdrawing the veil in 
which Christian beneficence ever loved to drape 
its acts — ^might he add that, under Providence, 
a book, a simple book, a mere tale, in fact, had 
had its share in the good work for which they 
were assembled to give thanks ? 

At this unexpected announcement, a ripple 
of excitement ran through the assemblage, and 
more than one head was abruptly turned in the 
direction of Mrs. Fetherel, who sat listening in 
an agony of wonder and confusion. It did not 
escape the observant novelist at her side that 
she drew down her veil to conceal an uncon- 
trollable blush, and this evidence of dismay 
caused him to fix an attentive gaze on her, while 
from her seat across the aisle Mrs. GoUinger 
sent a smile of unctuous approval. 

*A book — a simple book,' the Bishop's 
voice went on above this flutter of mingled 
emotions. * What is a book ? Only a few 
pages and a little ink — and yet one of the 
mightiest instruments which Providence has 
devised for shaping the destinies of man • • « 
one of the most powerful influences for good or 
evil which the Creator has placed in the hands 
of His creatures. . . .' 

The air seemed intolerably close to Mrs. 
Fetherel, and she drew out her scent-bottle, and 


thien thrust it hurriedly away, conscious that she 
was still the centre of an unenviable atten- 
tion. And all the while the Bishop's voice 
droned on. . • . 

*And of all forms of literature, fiction is 
doubtless that which has exercised the greatest 
sway, for good or ill, over the passions and 
imagination of the masses. Yes, my friends, I 
am the first to acknowledge it — no sermon, 
however eloquent, no theological treatise, how- 
ever learned and convincing, has ever inflamed 
the heart and imagination like a novel — a simple 
novel. Incalculable is the power exercised over 
humanity by the great magicians of the pen — 
a power ever enlarging its boundaries and in- 
creasing its responsibilities as popular education 
multiplies the number of readers. . . . Yes, it 
is the novelist's hand which can pour balm on 
countless human suflTerings, or inoculate man- 
kind with the festering poison of a corrupt 
imagination. • • .' 

Mrs. Fetherel had turned white, and her eyes 
were fixed with a blind stare of anger on the 
large-sleeved figure in the centre of the chancel. 

^ And too often, alas, it is the poison and not 
the balm which the unscrupulous hand of genius 
proffers to its unsuspecting readers. But, my 
friends, why should I continue? None know 
better than an assemblage of Christian women, 
such as I am now addressing, the beneficent or 
baleful influences of modern fiction ; and so, 
when I say that this beautiful chantry window 


of ours owes its existence in part to the ro- 
mancer's pen ' — the Bishop paused, and bending 
forward, seemed to seek a certain face among 
the countenances eagerly addressed to his — 
*when I say that this pen, which for personal 
reasons it does not become me to celebrate 
unduly * 

Mrs. Fetherel at this point half rose, pushing 
back her chair, which scraped loudly over the 
marble floor ; but Hynes involuntarily laid a 
warning hand on her arm, and she sank down 
with a confused murmur about the heat. 

*When I confess that this pen, which for 
once at least has proved itself so much mightier 
than the sword, is that which was inspired to 
trace the simple narrative of ** Through a Glass 
Brightlv " ' — Mrs. Fetherel looked up with a 
gasp of mingled relief and anger — * when I tell 
you, my dear friends, that it was your Bishop's 
own work which first roused the mind of one 
of his flock to the crying need of a chantry 
window, I think you will admit that I am 
justified in celebrating the triumphs of the pen, 
even though it be the modest instrument which 
your own Bishop wields.* 

The Bishop paused impressively, and a faint 
gasp of surprise and disappointment was audible 
throughout the chantry. Something very different 
from this conclusion had been expected, and even 
Mrs. Gollinger's lips curled with a slightly ironic 
smile. But Archer Hynes's attention was chiefly 
reserved for Mrs. Fetherel, whose face had changed 


with astonishing rapidity from surprise to annoy- 
ance, from annoyance to relief, and then back 
again to something very like indignation. 

The address concluded, the actual ceremony 
of the unveiling was about to take place, and 
the attention of the congregation soon reverted 
to the chancel, where the choir had grouped 
themselves beneath the veiled window, prepared 
to burst into a chant of praise as the Bishop 
drew back the hanging. The moment was an 
impressive one, and every eye was fixed on the 
curtain. Even Hynes*s gaze strayed to it for a 
moment, but soon returned to his neighbour *s 
face ; and then he perceived that Mrs. Fetherel, 
alone of all the persons present, was not looking 
at the window. Her eyes were fixed in an 
indignant stare on the Bishop ; a flush of anger 
burned becomingly under her veil, and her 
hands nervously crumpled the beautifully printed 
programme of the ceremony. 

Hynes broke into a smile of comprehension. 
He glanced at the Bishop, and back at the 
Bishop's niece ; then, as the episcopal hand was 
solemnly raised to draw back the curtain, he 
bent and whispered in Mrs. Fetherel's ear : 

* Why, you gave it yourself ! You wonder- 
ful woman, of course you gave it yourself ! * 

Mrs. Fetherel raised her eyes to his with a 
start. Her blush deepened and her lips shaped 
a hasty * No * ; but the denial was deflected into 
the indignant murmur — * It wasn't his silly book 
that (Hd it, anyhow ! ' 







It was the autumn after I had the typhoid, 
rd been three months in hospital, and when I 
came out I looked so weak and tottery that the 
two or three ladies I applied to were afraid to 
engage me. Most of my money was gone, and 
after I'd boarded for two months, hanging about 
the employment -agencies, and answering any 
advertisement that looked any way respectable, 
I pretty nearly lost heart, for fretting hadn't 
made me fatter, and I didn't see why my luck 
should ever turn. It did though— or I thought 
so at the time. A Mrs. Railton, a friend of the 
lady that first brought me out to the States, met 
me one day and stopped to speak to me : she 
was one that had always a friendly way with her. 
She asked me what ailed me to look so white, 
and when I told her, * Why, Hartley,' says she, 
♦ I believe I've got the very place for you. Come 
in to-morrow and we'll talk about it.' 

The next day, when I called, she told me 
the lady she'd in mind was a niece of hers, a 
Mrs. Brympton, a youngish lady, but something 
of an invalid, who lived all the year round at 



her country-place on the Hudson, owing to 
not being able to stand the fatigue of town 

*Now, Hartley/ Mrs. Railton said, in that 
cheery way that always made me feel things 
must be going to take a turn for the better — 
' now understand me ; it's not a cheerful place 
I'm sending you to. The house is big and 
gloomy ; my niece is nervous, vapourish ; her 
husband — well, he's generally away ; and the 
two children are dead. A year ago I would as 
soon h2ve thought of shutting a rosy active girl 
like you into a vault ; but you're not parti- 
cularly brisk yourself just now, are you r and 
a quiet place, with country air and wholesome 
food and early hours, ought to be the very thing 
for you. Don't mistake me,' she added, for I 
suppose I looked a trifle downcast ; * you may 
find it dull but you won't be unhappy. My 
niece is an angel. Her former maid, who died 
last spring, had been with her twenty years and 
worshipped the ground she walked on. She's 
a kind mistress to all, and where the mistress is 
kind, as you know, the servants are generally 
good-humoured, so you'll probably get on well 
enough with the rest of the household. And 
you're the very woman I want for my niece : 
quiet, well-mannered, and educated above your 
station. You read aloud well, I think ? That's 
a good thing ; my niece likes to be read to. 
She wants a maid that can be sometlung of a 
companion : her last was, and I can't say how 


she misses her. It's a lonely life. . . . Well, 
have you decided ? ' 

* Why, ma'am,' I said, * I'm not afraid of 

* Well, then, go ; my niece will take you on 
my recommendation. I'll telegraph her at once 
and you can take the afternoon train. She has 
no one to wait on her at present, and I don't 
want you to lose any time.' 

I was ready enough to start, yet softiething 
in me hung back ; and to gain time I asked, 
' And the gentleman, ma'am T ' 

* The gentleman's almost always away, I tell 
you,' said Mrs. Railton, quick-like — * and when 
he's there,' says she suddenly, * you've only to 
keep out of his way.' 

I took the afternoon train and got out at 
D station at about four o'clock. A groom 

in a dog-Hcart was waiting, and we drove off at 
a smart pace. It was a dull October day, with 
rain hanging dose overhead, and by the time we 
turned into Brympton Place woods the daylight 
was almost gone. The drive wound through 
the woods for a mile or two, and came out on 
a gravel court shut in with thickets of tall 
black-looking shrubs. There were no lights in 
the windows and the house did look a bit 

I had asked no questions of the groom, for I 
never was one to get my notion of new masters 
from their other servants : I prefer to wait and 
see for myself. But I could tell by the look of 


everything that I had got into the right kind 
of house, and that things were done handsomely. 
A pleasant-faced cook met me at the back door 
and called the house-maid to show me up to 
my room. ' You'll see madam later/ she said. 
* Mrs. Brympton has a visitor.' 

I hadn't fancied Mrs. Brympton was a lady 
to have many visitors, and somehow the words 
cheered me. I followed the house^maid upstairs, 
and saw, through a door on the upper landing, 
that the main part of the house seemed well- 
furnished, with dark panelling and a niunber of 
old portraits. Another flight of stairs led us 
up to the servants' wing. It was almost dark 
now, and the house-maid excused herself for not 
having brought a light. ' But there's matches 
in your room,' she said, ^ and if you go care- 
ful you'll be all right. Mind the step at 
the end of the passage. Your room is just 

I looked ahead as she spoke, and half-way 
down the passage I saw a woman standing. She 
drew back into a doorway as we passed and the 
house-m^d didn't appear to notice her. She was 
a thin woman with a white face, and a darkish 
stuff gown and apron. I took her for the 
housekeeper and thought it odd that she didn't 
speak, but just gave me a long look as she went 
by. My room opened into a square hall at the 
end of the passage. Facing my door was another 
which stood open : the house- msdd exclaimed 
when she saw it. 


* There — Mrs. Blinder *s left that door open 
again ! ' said she, closing it. 

* Is Mrs. Blmder the housekeeper ? * 

* There's no housekeeper : Mrs. Blinder 's the 

* And is that her room ? ' 

* Laws, no/ said the house-maid, cross-like. 
* That's nobody's room. It's empty, I mean, 
and the door hadn't ought to be open. Mrs. 
Brympton wants it kept locked.' 

She opened my door and led me into a neat 
room, nicely furnished, with a picture or two on 
the walls ; and having lit a candle she took leave, 
telling me that the servants'-hall tea was at six, 
and that Mrs. Brympton would see me after- 

I found them a pleasant-spoken set in the 
servants' hall, and by what they let fall I gathered 
that, as Mrs. Railton had said, Mrs. Brympton 
was the kindest of ladies ; but I didn't take 
much notice of their talk, for I was watching to 
see the pale woman in the dark gown come in. 
She didn't show herself, however, and I wondered 
if she ate apart ; but if she wasn't the house- 
keeper, why should she ? Suddenly it struck 
me that she might be a trained nurse, and in 
that case her meals would of course be served in 
her room. If Mrs. Brympton was an invalid it 
was likely enough she had a nurse. The idea 
annoyed me, I own, for they're not always 
the easiest to get on with, and if I'd known 
I shouldn't have taken the place. But there 


I was and there was no use pulling a long face 
over it ; and not being one to 3^ questions I 
waited to see what would turn up. 

When tea was over the house-maid said to 
the footman : * Has Mr. Ranford gone ? ' and 
when he said yes, she told me to come up with 
her to Mrs. Brympton. 

Mrs. Brympton was lying down in her bed- 
room. Her lounge stood near the fire and 
beside it was a shaded lamp. She was a delicate- 
looking lady, but when she smiled I felt there 
was nothing I wouldn't do for her. She spoke 
very pleasantly, in a low voice, asking me my 
name and age and so on, and if I had every- 
thing I wanted, and if I wasn't afraid of feeling 
lonely in the country. 

• Not with you I wouldn't be, madam,' I said, 
and the words surprised me when I'd spoken 
them, for I'm not an impulsive person ; but it 
was just as if I'd thought aloud. 

She seemed pleased at that, and said she 
hoped I'd continue in the same mind ; then she 
gave me a few directions about her toilet, and 
said Agnes the house-maid would show me next 
morning where things were kept. 

• I am tired to-night, and shall dine upstairs,' 
she said. * Agnes will bring me my tray, that 
you may have time to unpack and settle your- 
self ; and later you may come and undress me.' 

• Very well, ma'am,' I s^d. * You'll ring, I 
suppose ? ' 

I thought she looked odd. 


* No — Agnes will fetch you/ says she quickly, 
and took up her book again. 

Well — ^that was certainly strange : a lady V 
maid having to be fetched by the house-maid 
whenever her lady wanted her ! I wondered if 
there were no bells in the house ; but the next 
day I satisfied myself that there was one in every 
room, and a special one ringing from my 
mistress's room to mine ; and after that it did 
strike me as queer that, whenever Mrs. Brymp- 
ton wanted anything, she rang for Agnes, who 
had to walk the whole length of the servants* 
wing to call me. 

But that wasn't the only queer thing in the 
house. The very next day I found out that 
Mrs. Brympton had no nurse ; and then I asked 
Agnes about the woman I had seen in the 
passage the afternoon before. Agnes said she 
had seen no one, and I saw that she thought I 
was dreaming. To be sure, it was dusk when 
we went dowa the passage, and she had excused 
herself for not bringing a light ; but I had seen 
the woman plain enough to know her again if 
we should meet. I decided that she must have 
been a friend of the cook's, or of one of the 
other women-servants ; perhaps she had come 
down from town for a night's visit, and the 
servants wanted it kept secret. Some ladies are 
very stiff about having their servants' friends 
in the house overnight. At any rate, I made 
up my mind to ask no more questions. 

In a day or two another odd thing happened. 


I was chatting one afternoon with Mrs« Blinder, 
who was a triendly disposed woman, and had 
been longer in the house than the other servants, 
and she asked me if I was quite comfortable 
and had everything I needed. I said I had no 
fault to find with my place or with my mistress, 
but I thought it odd that in so large a house 
there was no sewing-room for the lady's maid. 

• Why/ says she, * there is one : the room 
you're in is the old sewing-room.' 

• Oh,' said I ; * and where did the other 
lady's maid sleep ? ' 

At that she grew confused, and said hurriedly 
that the servants' rooms had all been changed 
last year, and she didn't rightly remember. 

That struck me as peculiar, but I went on as 
if I hadn't noticed: •Well, there's a vacant 
room opposite mine, and I mean to ask Mrs. 
Brympton if I mayn't use that as a sewing-room.' 

To my astonishment, Mrs. Blinder went 
white and gave my hand a kind of squeeze. 
* Don't do that, my dear,' said she, trembling- 
like. • To tell you the truth, that was Emma 
Saxon's room, and my mistress has kept it closed 
ever since her death.' 

• And who was Emma Saxon ? ' 

• Mrs. Brympton's former maid.' 

• The one that was nwth her so many years ? ' 
said I, remembering what Mrs. Railton had 
told me. 

Mrs. Blinder nodded. 

• What sort of woman was she ? ' 


•No better walked the earth/ said Mrs. 
f^ Blinder. * My mistress loved her like a sister.' 

• But I mean — what did she look like ? ' 

Mrs. Blinder got up and gave me a kind of 

f angry stare. * Tm no great hand at describing,' 

she said; *and I believe my pastry's rising.' 

And she walked off into the kitchen and shut 

** the door after her. 


I HAD been near a week at Brympton before I 
saw my master. Word came that he was arriv- 
ing one afternoon, and a change passed over the 
whole household. It was plain that nobody 
loved him below stairs. Mrs. Blinder took un- 
common care with the dinner that night, but 
she snapped at the kitchen-maid in a way quite 
unusual with her ; and Mr. Wace, the butler, 
a serious slow-spoken man, went about his 
duties as if he'd been getting ready for a 
funeral. He was a great Bible-reader, Mr. 
Wace was, and had a beautiful assortment of 
texts at his command ; but that day he used 
such dreadful language that I was about to 
leave the table, when he assured me it was all 
out of Isaiah ; and I noticed that whenever the 
master came Mr. Wace took to the prophets. 

About seven, Agnes called me to my mistress's 
room ; and there 1 found Mr. Brympton. He 
was standing on the hearth ; a big fair bull- 
necked man, with a red face and little bad- 
tempered blue eyes : the kind of man a young 
simpleton might have thought handsome, and 



would have been like to pay dear for think- 
ing it. 

He swung about when I came in, and looked 
me over in a trice. I knew what the look 
meant, from having experienced it once or 
twice in my former places. Then he turned 
his back on me, and went on talking to his wife ; 
and I knew what that meant, too. I was not 
the kind of morsel he was after. The typhoid 
had served me well enough in one way : it kept 
that kind of gentleman at arm's-length. 

• This is my new maid. Hartley,' says Mrs. 
Brympton in her kind voice ; and he nodded 
and went on with what he was saying. 

In a minute or two he went off, and left my 
mistress to dress for dinner, and I noticed as I 
waited on her that she was white, and chill to 
the touch. 

Mr. Brympton took himself off the next 
morning, and the whole house drew a long 
breath when he drove away. As for my 
mistress, she put on her hat and furs (for it 
was a fine winter morning) and went out for a 
walk in the gardens, coming back quite fresh 
and rosy, so that for a minute, before her colour 
faded, I could guess what a pretty young lady 
she must have been, and not so long ago, either. 

She had met Mr. Ranford in the grounds, 
and the two came back together, I remember, 
smiling and talking as they walked along the 
terrace under my window. That was the first 
time I saw Mr. Ranford, though I had often 


heard his name mentioned in the hall. He was 
a neighbour, it appeared, living a mile or two 
beyond Brympton, at the end of the village ; 
and as he was in the habit of spending his 
winters in the country he was almost the only 
company my mistress had at that season. He 
was a slight tall gentleman of about thirty, and 
I thought him rather melancholy-looking till I 
saw his smile, which had a kind of surprise in 
it, like the first warm day in spring. He was 
a great reader, I heard, like my mistress, and 
the two were forever borrowing books of one 
another, and sometimes (Mr. Wace told me) 
he would read aloud to Mrs. Brympton by the 
hour, in the big dark library where she sat in 
the winter afternoons. The servants all liked 
him, and perhaps that's more of a compliment 
than the masters suspect. He had a friendly 
word for every one of us, and we were all glad 
to think that Mrs. Brympton had a pleasant 
companionable gentleman like that to keep her 
company when the master was away. Mr. 
Ranford seemed on excellent terms with Mr. 
Brympton too ; though I couldn't but wonder 
that two gentlemen so unlike each other should 
be so friendly. But then I knew how the real 
quality can keep their feelings to themselves. 

As for Mr. Brympton, he came and went, 
never staying more than a day or two, cursing 
the dulness and the solitude, grumbling at 
everything, and (as I soon found out) drinking 
a deal more than was good for him. After 


Mrs. Brympton left the table he would sit half 
the night over the old Brympton port and 
madeira, and once, as I was leaving my mistress's 
room rather later than usual, I met him coming 
up the stairs in such a state that I turned sick 
to think of what some ladies have to endure and 
hold their tongues about. 

The servants said very little about their 
master ; but from what they let drop I could 
see it had been an unhappy match from the 
beginning. Mr. Brympton was coarse, loud, 
and pleasure-loving ; my mistress quiet, retiring, 
and perhaps a tnfle cold. Not that she was 
not always pleasant-spoken to him : I thought 
her wonderfully forbearing ; but to a gentleman 
as free as Mr. Brympton I daresay she seemed a 
little offish. 

Well, things went on quietly for several 
weeks. My mistress was kind, my duties were 
light, and I got on well with the other servants. 
In short, I had nothing to complain of; yet 
there was always a weight on me. I can't say 
why it was so, but I know it was not the loneli- 
ness that I felt. I soon got used to that ; and 
being still languid from the fever I was thank- 
ful for the quiet and the good country air. 
Nevertheless, I was never quite easy in my mind. 
My mistress, knowing I had been ill, insisted 
that I should take my walk regular, and often 
invented errands for me : — a yard of ribbon to 
be fetched from the village, a letter posted, or 
a book returned to Mr. Ranford. As soon as 


I was out of doors my spirits rose, and I looked 
forward to my walks through the bare moist- 
smelling woods ; but the moment I caught sight 
of the house again my heart dropped down Uke 
a stone in a well. It was not a gloomy house 
exactly, yet I never entered it but a feeling of 
gloom came over me. 

Mrs. Brympton seldom went out in isdnter ; 
only on the finest days did she walk an hour 
at noon on the south terrace. Excepting Mr. 
Ranford, we had no visitors but the doctor, 

who drove over from D about once a week. 

He sent for me once or twice to give me some 
trifling direction about my mistress, and though 
he never told me what her illness was, I thought, 
from a waxy look she had now and then of a 
morning, that it might be the heart that ailed 
her. The season was soft and unwholesome, 
and in January we had a long spell of rain. 
That was a sore trial to me, I own, for I couldn't 
go out, and sitting over my sewing all day, 
listening to the drip, drip of the eaves, I grew 
so nervous that the least sound made me jump. 
Somehow, the thought of that locked room 
across the passage began to weigh on me. 
Once or twice, in the long rainy nights, I 
fancied I heard noises there ; but that was 
nonsense, of course, and the daylight drove 
such notions out of my head. Well, one 
morning Mrs. Brympton gave me quite a start 
of pleasure by telling me she isdshed me to go 
to town for some shopping. I hadn't known 


till then how low my spirits had fallen. I set 
off in high glee, and my first sight of the 
crowded streets and the cheerful-looking shops 
quite took me out of myself. Toward after- 
noon, however, the noise and confusion began 
to tire me, and I was actually looking forward 
to the quiet of Brympton, and thinking how I 
should enjoy the drive home through the dark 
woods, when I ran across an old acquaintance, 
a maid I had once been in service with. We 
had lost sight of each other for a number of 
years, and I had to stop and tell her what had 
happened to me in the interval. When I men- 
tioned where I was living she rolled up her eyes 
and pulled a long face. 

* What ! The Mrs. Brympton that lives all 
the year at her place on the Hudson ? My 
dear, you won't stay there three months.' 

* Oh, but I don't mind the country,' says I, 
offended somehow at her tone. • Since the fever 
I'm glad to be quiet.' 

She shook her head. * It's not the country 
I'm thinking of. All I know is she's had four 
maids in the last six months, and the last one, 
who was a firiend of mine, told me nobody could 
stay in the house.' 

* Did she say why ? ' I asked. 

•No — she wouldn't give me her reason. 
But she says to me, Mrs. Ansey^ she says, // 
ever a young woman as you know of thinks of 
going there^ you tell her ifs not worth while to 
unpack her boxes. ^ 


' Is she young and handsome i ' said I, think- 
ing of Mr. Brympton. 

'Not her! She's the kind that mothers 
engage when they've gay young gentlemen at 

Welly though I knew the woman was an idle 
gossipy the words stuck in my head, and my 
heart sank lower than ever as I drove up to 
Brympton in the dusk. There was something 
about the house — I was sure of it now . . . 

When I went in to tea I heard that Mr. 
Brympton had arrived, and I saw at a glance 
that there had been a disturbance of some kind. 
Mrs. Blinder's hand shook so that she could 
hardly pour the tea, and Mr. Wace quoted the 
most dreadful texts full of brimstone. Nobody 
said a word to me then, but when I went up to 
my room, Mrs. Blinder followed me. 

*Oh, my dear,' says she, taking my hand, 
'I'm so glad and thankful you've come back 
to us ! ' 

That struck me, as you may imagine. 
• Why,' said I, * did you think I was leaving 
for good ? ' 

* No, no, to be sure,' said she, a little con- 
fused, 'but I can't a-bear to have madam left 
alone for a day even.' She pressed my hand 
hard, and, * Oh, Miss Hardey,' says she, * be 
good to your mistress, as you're a Christian 
woman.' And with that she hiu-ried away, and 
left me staring. 

A moment later Agnes called me to Mrs. 


Brympton. Hearing Mr. Brympton's voice in 
her room, I went round by the dressing-room, 
thinking I would lay out her dinner -gown 
before going in. The dressing-room is a large 
room with a window over the portico that looks 
toward the gardens. Mr. Brympton's apart- 
ments are beyond. When I went in, the door 
into the bedroom was ajar, and I heard Mr. 
Brympton saying angrily : — * One would sup- 
pose he was the only person fit for you to 
talk to.' 

* I don't have many visitors in winter,' Mrs. 
Brympton answered quietly. 

• You have me ! ' he flung at her, sneeringly. 

* You are here so seldom,' said she. 

• Well — ^whose fault is that } You make the 
place about as lively as the family vault ' 

With that I rattled the toilet-things, to give 
my mistress warning, and she rose and called 
me in. 

The two dined alone, as usual, and I knew 
by Mr. Wace's manner at supper that things 
must be going badly. He quoted the pro- 
phets something terrible, and worked on the 
kitchen-maid so that she declared she wouldn't 
go down alone to put the cold meat in the 
ice-box. I felt nervous myself, and after I had 
put my mistress to bed I was half-tempted to 
go down again and persuade Mrs. Blinder to 
sit up a while over a game of cards. But I 
heard her door closing for the night and so I 
went on to my own room. The rain had begun 


again, and the drip, drip, drip seemed to be 
dropping into my brain. I lay awake listening 
to It, and turning over what my friend in town 
had said. What puzzled me was that it was 
always the maids who left. . . . 

After a while I slept ; but suddenly a loud 
noise wakened me. My bell had rung. I sat 
up, terrified by the unusual sound, which seemed 
to go on jangling through the darkness. My 
hands shook so that I couldn't find the matches. 
At length I struck a light and jumped out of 
bed. I began to think I must have been dream- 
ing ; but I looked at the bell against the wall, 
and there was the little hammer still quivering. 

I was just beginning to huddle on my clothes 
when I heard another sound. This time it was 
the door of the locked room opposite mine 
softly opening and closing. I heard the sound 
distinctly, and it frightened me so that I stood 
stock still. Then I heard a footstep hurrying 
down the passage toward the main house. 
The floor being carpeted, the sound was very 
faint, but I was quite sure it was a woman's 
step. I turned cold with the thought of it, and 
for a minute or two I dursn't breathe or move. 
Then I came to my senses. 

* Alice Hartley,' says I to myself, * some one 
left that room just now and ran down the 
passage ahead of you. The idea isn't pleasant, 
but you may as well face it. Your mistress has 
rung for you, and to answer her bell you've 
got to go the way that other woman has gone.' 


Well — I did it. I never walked faster in 
my life, yet I thought I should never get to the 
end of the passage or reach Mrs. Brympton's 
room. On the way I heard nothing and saw 
nothing : all was dark and quiet as the grave. 
When I reached my mistress's door the silence 
was so deep that I began to think I must be 
dreaming, and was half-minded to turn back. 
Then a panic seized me, and I knocked. 

There was no answer, and I knocked again, 
loudly. To my astonishment the door was 
opened by Mr. Brympton. He started back 
when he saw me, and in the light of my candle 
his face looked red and savage. 

* Tou ? * he said, in a queer voice. * How 
many of you are therCy in God's name ? ' 

At that I felt the ground give under me ; 
but I said to myself that he had been drinking, 
and answered as steadily as I could : ^ May I 
go in, sir? Mrs. Brympton has rung for me.' 

* You may all go in, for what I care,' says he, 
and, pushing by me, walked down the hall to 
his own bedroom. I looked after him as he 
went, and to my surprise I saw that he walked 
as straight as a sober man. 

I found my mistress lying very weak and 
still, but she forced a smile when she saw me, 
and signed to me to pour out some drops for 
her. After that she lay without speaking, her 
breath coming quick, and her eyes closed. 
Suddenly she groped out with her hand, and 
* Emma; says she, faintly. 


•It's Hardey, madam/ I s^d. *Do you 
want anything ? ' 

She opened her eyes wide and gave me a 
startled look. 

• I was dreaming/ she said. * You may go, 
now, Hartley, and thank you kindly. I'm 

Jiuite well again, you see.' And she turned her 
ace away from me. 


There was no more sleep for me that night, 
and I was thankful when daylight came. 

Soon afterward, Agnes called me to Mrs. 
Brympton. I was afraid she was ill again, for 
she seldom sent for me before nine, but I found 
her sitting up in bed, pale and drawn-looking, 
but quite herself. 

* Hartley,' says she quickly, *will you put 
on your things at once and go down to the 
village for me ? I want this prescription made 
up' — ^here she hesitated a minute and blushed 
— *and I should like you to be back again 
before Mr. Brympton is up.* 

* Certainly, madam,' I said. 

* And — stay a moment ' — she called me 
back as if an idea had just struck her — • while 
you're waiting for the mixture, you'U have time 
to go on to Mr. Ranford's with this note.' 

It was a two-mile walk to the village, and on 
my way I had time to turn things over in my 
mind. It struck me as peculiar that my mistress 
should wish the prescription made up without 
Mr. Brympton's knowledge ; and, putting this 



together with the scene of the night before, and 
with much else that I had noticed and suspected, 
I began to wonder if the poor lady was weary 
of her life, and had come to the mad resolve of 
ending it. The idea took such hold on me that 
I reached the village on a run, and dropped 
breathless into a chair before the chemist's 
counter. The good man, who was just taking 
down his shutters, stared at me so hard that it 
brought me to myself. 

* Mr. Limmel,' I says, trying to speak in- 
(UfFerent, * will you run your eye over this, and 
tell me if it's quite right ? ' 

He put on his spectacles and studied the pre- 

*Why, it's one of Dr. Walton's,' says he. 
* What should be wrong with it ? ' 

* Well — is it dangerous to take ? ' 

* Dangerous — ^how do you mean ? ' 

I could have shaken the man for his stupidity. 

* I mean — if a person was to take too much 

of it — by mistake of course ' says I, my 

heart in my throat. 

* Lord bless you, no. It's only lime-water. 
You might feed it to a baby by the bottleful.' 

I gave a great sigh of relief and hurried on 
to Mr. Ranford's. But on the way another 
thought struck me. If there was nothing to 
conceal about my visit to the chemist's, was it 
my other errand that Mrs. Brympton wished 
me to keep private? Somehow, that thought 
frightened me worse than the other. Yet the 


two gentlemen seemed fast friends, and I would 
have staked my head on my mistress's goodness. 
I felt ashamed of my suspicions, and concluded 
that I was still disturbed by the strange events 
of the night. I left the note at Mr. Ranford's, 
and hurrying back to Brympton, slipped in by 
a side door without being seen, as I thought. 

An hour later, however, as I was carrying in 
my mistress's breakfast, I was stopped in the 
hall by Mr. Brympton. 

* What were you doing out so early ?' he says, 
looking hard at me. 

* Early — me, sir ? ' I said, in a tremble. 
*Come, come,' he says, an angry red spot 

coming out on his forehead, * didn't I see you 
scuttling home through the shrubbery an hour 
or more ago ? ' 

I'm a truthful woman by nature, but at that 
a lie popped out ready-made. * No, sir, you 
didn't,' said I, and looked straight back at him. 

He shrugged his shoulders and gave a sullen 
laugh. * I suppose you think I was drunk last 
night ? ' he asked suddenly. 

* No, sir, I don't,' I answered, this time truth- 
fully enough. 

He turned away with another shrug. *A 
pretty notion my servants have of me ! ' I 
neard him mutter as he walked off. 

Not till I had settled down to my afternoon's 
sewing did I realize how the events of the night 
had shaken me. I couldn't pass that locked 
door without a shiver. I knew I had heard 


someone come out of it, and walk down the 
passage ahead of me. I thought of speaking to 
Mrs. Blinder or to Mr. Wace, the only two in 
the house who appeared to have an inkling of 
what was going on, but I had a feeling that if 
I questioned them they would deny everything, 
and that I might learn more by holding my 
tongue and keeping my eyes open. The idea 
of spending another night opposite the locked 
room sickened me, and once I was seized with 
the notion of packing my trunk and taking the 
first train to town ; but it wasn't in me to 
throw over a kind mistress in that manner, and 
I tried to go on with my sewing as if nothing 
had happened. I hadn't worked ten minutes 
before the sewing machine broke down. It was 
one I had found in the house, a good machine 
but a trifle out of order : Mrs. Blinder said it 
had never been used since Enima Saxon's death. 
I stopped to see what was wrong, and as I was 
working at the machine a drawer which I had 
never been able to open slid forward^ and a 
photograph fell out. I picked it up and sat 
looking at it in a maze. It was a woman's 
likeness, and I knew I had seen the face some- 
where — the eyes had an asking look that I had 
felt on me before. And suddenly I remembered 
the pale woman in the passage. 

I stood up, cold all over, and ran out of the 
room. My heart seemed to be thumping in the 
top of my head, and I felt as if I should never 
get away from the look in those eyes. I went 


straight to Mrs. Blinder. She was taking her 
afternoon nap, and sat up with a jump when I 
came in. 

* Mrs. Blinder,' said I, * who is that ? ' And 
I held out the photograph. 

She rubbed her eyes and stared. 

* Why, Emma Saxon,' says she. * Where 
did you find it ? ' 

I looked hard at her for a minute. * Mrs. 
Blinder,' I said, * I've seen that face before.' 

Mrs. Blinder got up and walked over to the 
looking-glass. * Dear me ! I must have been 
asleep,' she says. * My front is all over one 
ear. And now do run along, Miss Hartley, 
dear, for I hear the clock striking four, and I 
must go down this very minute and put on the 
Virginia ham for Mr. Brympton's dinner.' 


To all appearances, things went on as usual for 
a week or two. The only difFerence was that 
Mr. Brympton stayed on, instead of going 
off as he usually did, and that Mr. Ranford 
never showed himself. I heard Mr. Brympton 
remark on this one afternoon when he was 
sitting in my mistress's room before dinner. 

* Where's Ranford ? * says he. • He hasn*t 
been near the house for a week. Does he keep 
away because I'm here ? ' 

Mrs. Brympton spoke so low that I couldn't 
catch her answer. 

*Well,' he went on, * two's company and 
three's trumpery ; I'm sorry to be in Ranford's 
way, and I suppose I shall have to take myself 
off again in a day or two and give him a show.' 
And he laughed at his own joke. 

The very next day, as it happened, Mr. 
Ranford called. The footman said the three 
were very merry over their tea in the library, 
and Mr. Brympton strolled down to the gate 
with Mr. Ranford when he left. 

I have said that things went on as usual ; 




and so they did with the rest of the household ; 
but as for myself, I had never been the same 
since the night my bell had rung. Night after 
night I used to lie awake, listening ror it to 
ring again, and for the door of the locked room 
to open stealthily. But the bell never rang, 
and I heard no sound across the passage. At 
last the silence began to be more dreadfiil to 
me than the most mysterious sounds. I felt 
that someone was cowering there, behind the 
locked door, watching and listening as I 
watched and listened, and I could almost have 
cried out, * Whoever you are, come out and 
let me see you face to face, but don't lurk there 
and spy on me in the darkness ! ' 

Feeling as I did, you may wonder I didn't 
give warning. Once I very nearly did so ; but 
at the last moment something held me back. 
Whether it was compassion for my mistress, 
who had grown more and more dependent on 
me, or unwillingness to try a new place, or 
some other feeling that I couldn't put a name 
to, I lingered on as if spell-bound, though 
every night was dreadful to me, and the days 
but little better. 

For one thing, I didn't like Mrs. Brympton's 
looks. She had never been the same since that 
night, no more than I had. I thought she 
would brighten up after Mr. Brympton left, 
but though she seemed easier in her mind, 
her spirits didn't revive, nor her strength 
either. She had grown attached to me and 


seemed to like to have me about ; and Agnes 
told me one day that, since Emma Saxon*s 
death, I was the only maid her mistress had 
taken to. This gave me a warm feeling for 
the poor lady, though after all there was little 
I could do to help her. 

After Mr. Brympton's departure Mr. Ran- 
ford took to coming again, though less often 
than formerly. I met him once or twice in 
the grounds, or in the village, and I couldn't 
but think there was a change in him too ; but 
I set it down to my disordered fancy. 

The weeks passed, and Mr. Brympton had 
now been a month absent. We heard he was 
cruising with a friend in the West Indies, and 
Mr. Wace s^d that was a long way off, but 
though you had the wings of a dove and 
went to the uttermost parts of the earth, you 
couldn't get away from the Almighty. Asnes 
said that as long as he stayed away nrom 
Brympton the Almighty might have him and 
welcome ; and this raised a laugh, though Mrs. 
Blinder tried to look shocked, and Mr. Wace 
sdid the bears would eat us. 

We were all glad to hear that the West 
Indies were a long way off, and I remember 
that, in spite of Mr. Wace's solemn looks, we 
had a very merry dinner that dav in the hall. 
I don't know if it was because of my being in 
better spirits, but I fancied Mrs. Brympton 
looked better too, and seemed more cheerful in 
her manner. She had been for a walk in the 


morning, and after luncheon she lay down in 
her room, and I read aloud to her. When 
she dismissed me I went to my own room 
feeling quite bright and happy, and for the 
first time in weeks walked past the locked 
door without thinking of it. As I sat down 
to my work I looked out and saw a few snow- 
flakes falling. The sight was pleasanter than 
the eternal rain, and I pictured to myself how 
pretty the bare gardens would look in their 
white mantle. It seemed to me as if the snow 
would cover up all the dreariness, indoors as 
well as out. 

The fancy had hardly crossed my mind 
when I heard a step at my side. I looked up, 
thinking it was Agnes. 

*WeU, Agnes * said I, and the words 

froze on my tongue ; for there, in the door, 
stood Emma Saxon. 

I don't know how long she stood there. 
I only know I couldn't stir or take my eyes 
from her. Afterward I was terribly frightened, 
but at the time it wasn't fear I felt, but some- 
thing deeper and quieter. She looked at me 
long and long, and her face was just one dumb 
prayer to me — ^but how in the world was I to 
help her? Suddenly she turned, and I heard 
her walk down the passage. This time I 
wasn't afraid to follow — I felt that I must 
know what she wanted. I sprang up and ran 
out. She was at the other end of the passage, 
and I expected her to take the turn toward 


my mistress's room ; but instead of that she 
pushed open the door that led to the back- 
stairs. I followed her down the stairs, and 
across the passage-way to the back door. The 
kitchen and hall were empty at that hour, the 
servants being oiF duty, except for the footman, 
who was in the pantry. At the door she stood 
still a moment, with another look at me ; then 
she turned the handle, and stepped out. For 
a minute I hesitated. Where was she leading 
me to ? The door had closed softly after her, 
. and I opened it and looked out, half-expecting 
to find that she had disappeared. But I saw 
her a few yards off hurrying across the court- 
yard to the path through the woods. Her 
figure looked black and lonely in the snow, and 
for a second my heart failed me and I thought 
of turning back. But all the while she was 
drawing me after her ; and catching up an old 
shawl of Mrs. Blinder's I ran out into the 

Emma Saxon was in the wood -path now. 
She walked on steadily, and I followed at the 
same pace till we passed out of the gates and 
reached the highroad. Then she struck across 
the open fields to the village. By this time the 
ground was white, and as she climbed the slope 
of a bare hill ahead of me I noticed that she left 
no footprints behind her. At sight of that my 
heart shrivelled up within me and my knees 
were water. Somehow it was worse here than 
indoors. She made the whole countryside seem 



lonely as the grave, with none but us two in it, 
and no help in the wide world. 

Once I tried to go back ; but she turned 
and looked at me, and it was as if she had 
dragged me with ropes. After that I followed 
her Uke a dog. We came to the village and 
she led me through it, past the church and the 
blacksmith's shop, and down the lane to Mr. 
Ranford's. Mr. Ranford's house stands close 
to the road : a plain old-fashioned building, 
with a flagged path leading to the door between 
box-borders. The lane was deserted, and as I 
turned into it I saw Emma Saxon pause under 
the old elm by the gate. And now another 
fear came over me. I saw that we had reached 
the end of our journey, and that it was my turn 
to act. All the way from Brympton I had been 
asking myself what she wanted of me, but I 
had followed in a trance, as it were, and not 
till I saw her stop at Mr. Ranford's gate 
did my brain begin to clear itself. I stood a 
little way off in the snow, my heart beating fit 
to strangle me, and my feet frozen to the 
ground ; and she stood under t6e elm and 
watched me. 

I knew well enough that she hadn't led me 
there for nothing. I felt there was something I 
ought to say or do— but how was I to guess 
what it was .? I had never thought harm of my 
mistress and Mr. Ranford, but I was sure now 
that, from one cause or another, some dreadful 
thing hung over them. She knew what it was ; 


she would tell me if she could ; perhaps she 
would answer if I questioned her. 

It turned me faint to think of speaking to 
her ; but I plucked up heart and dragged my- 
self across the few yards between us. As 1 did 
SO) I heard the house-door open and saw Mr. 
Ranford approaching. He looked handsome 
and cheerful, as my mistress had looked that 
morning, and at sight of him the blood began 
to flow again in my veins. 

* Why, Hartley,' said he, * what's the matter ? 
I saw you coming down the lane just now, and 
came out to see if you had taken root in the 
snow.' He stopped and stared at me. * What 
are you looking at ? ' he says. 

I turned toward the elm as he spoke, and 
his eyes followed me ; but there was no one 
there. The lane was empty as far as the eye 
could reach. 

A sense of helplessness came over me. She 
was gone, and I had not been able to guess 
what she wanted. Her last look had pierced 
me to the marrow ; and yet it had not told me ! 
All at once, 1 felt more desolate than when she 
had stood there watching me. It seemed as if 
she had left me all alone to carry the weight of 
the secret I couldn't guess. The snow went 
round me in great circles, and the ground fell 
away from me. . . . 

A drop of brandy and the warmth of Mr. 
Ranford's fire soon brought me to, and I in- 
sisted on being driven back at once to Brympton. 


It was nearly dark, and I was afraid my 
mistress might be wanting me. I explained to 
Mr. Ranford that I had been out for a walk 
and had been taken with a fit of giddiness as I 
passed his gate. This was true enough ; yet I 
never felt more like a liar than when I said it. 

When I dressed Mrs. Brympton for dinner 
she remarked on my pale looks and asked what 
ailed me. I told her I had a headache, and she 
said she would not require me again that evening, 
and advised me to go to bed. 

It was a fact that I could scarcely keep on 
my feet ; yet I had no fancy to spend a solitary 
evening in my room. I sat downstairs in the 
hall as long as I could hold my head up ; but 
by nine I crept upstairs, too weary to care what 
happened if I could but get my head on a 
pillow. The rest of the household went to bed 
soon afterward ; they kept early hours when 
the master was away, and before ten I heard 
Mrs. Blinder's door close, and Mr. Wace's soon 

It was a very still night, earth and air all 
muffled in snow. Once in bed I felt easier, and 
lay quiet, listening to the strange noises that 
come out in a house after dark. Once I 
thought I heard a door open and close again 
below : it might have been the glass door that 
led to the gardens. I got up and peered out of 
the window ; but it was in the dark of the 
moon, and nothing visible outside but the 
streaking of snow against the panes. 


I went back to bed and must have dozed, 
for I jumped awake to the furious ringing of 
my bell. Before my head was clear 1 had 
sprung out of bed and was dragging on my 
clothes. // is going to happen now^ I heard my- 
self saying ; but what I meant I had no notion. 
My hands seemed to be covered with glue — I 
thought I should never get into my clothes. 
At last I opened my door and peered down the 
passage. As far as my candle-flame carried, 
I could see nothing unusual ahead of me. 
I hurried on, breathless ; but as I pushed open 
the baize door leading to the main hall my 
heart stood still, for there at the head of the 
stairs was Emma Saxon, peering dreadfully 
down into the darkness. 

For a second I couldn't stir ; but my hand 
slipped from the door, and as it swung shut the 
figure vanished. At the same instant there 
came another sound from below stairs — a 
stealthy mysterious sound, as of a latch-key 
turning in the house -door. I ran to Mrs. 
Brympton's room and knocked. 

There was no answer, and I knocked again. 
This time I heard some one moving in the 
room ; the bolt slipped back and my mistress 
stood before me. To my surprise I saw that 
she had not undressed for the night. She gave 
me a startled look. 

* What is this. Hartley } ' she says in a 
whisper. * Are you ill } What are you doing 
here at this hour ? ' 


* I am not ill, madam ; but my bell rang/ 
At that she turned pale, and seemed about 

to fall. 

* You are mistaken/ she said harshly ; * I 
didn't ring. You must have been dreaming.' I 
had never heard her speak in such a tone. * Go 
back to bed,' she said, closing the door on me. 

But as she spoke I heard sounds again in the 
hall below ; a man's step this time ; and the 
truth leaped out on me. 

* Madam,* I said, pushing past her, * there is 
someone in the house ' 

* Someone i * 

*Mr. Brympton, I think — I hear his step 
below ' 

A dreadful look came over her, and without 
a word, she dropped flat at my feet. I fell on 
my knees and tried to lift her : by the way she 
breathed I saw it was no common faint. But as 
I raised her head there came quick steps on the 
stairs and across the hall : the door was flung 
open, and there stood Mr. Brympton, in his 
travelling-clothes, the snow dripping from him. 
He drew back with a start as he saw me kneel- 
ing by my mistress. 

* What the devil is this ? ' he shouted. He 
was less high-coloured than usual, and the red 
spot came out on his forehead. 

* Mrs. Brympton has fainted, sir,' said I. 
He laughed unsteadily and pushed by me. 

* It's a pity she didn't choose a more convenient 
moment. I'm sorry to disturb her, but ' 


I raised myself up, aghast at the man's action. 

* Sir,' said I, * are you mad ? What are you 
doing ? ' 

' Going to meet a friend/ said he, and seemed 
to make for the dressing-room. 

At that my heart turned over. I don't know 
what I thought or feared ; but I sprang up and 
caught him by the sleeve. 

^ Sir, sir/ said I, ' for pity's sake look at your 

He shook me off furiously. 

' It seems that's done for me/ says he, and 
caught hold of the dressing-room door. 

At that moment I heard a slight noise inside. 
Slight as it was, he heard it too, and tore the 
door open ; but as he did so he dropped back. 
On the threshold stood Emma Saxon. All was 
dark behind her, but I saw her plainly, and so 
did he. He threw up his hands as if to hide his 
face from her ; and when I looked again she was 

He stood motionless, as if the strength had 
run out of him ; and in the stillness my mistress 
suddenly raised herself, and opening her eyes 
fixed a look on him. Then she fell back, and I 
saw the death-flutter pass over her. . . . 

We buried her on the third day, in a driving 
snow-storm. There were few people in the 
church, for it was bad weather to come from 
town, and I've a notion my mistress was one 
that hadn't many near friends. Mr. Ranford 
was among the last to come, just before they 


carried her up the aisle. He was in black, of 
course, being such a friend of the family, and 
I never saw a gentleman so pale. As he 
passed me I noticed that he leaned a trifle on a 
stick he carried ; and I fancy Mr. Brympton 
noticed it too, for the red spot came out sharp 
on his forehead, and all through the service he 
kept staring across the church at Mr. Ranford, 
instead of following the prayers as a mourner 

When it was over and we went out to the 
graveyard, Mr. Ranford had disappeared, and 
as soon as my poor mistress's body was under- 
ground, Mr. Brympton jumped into the carriage 
nearest the gate and drove off without a word 
to any of us. I heard him call out, * To the 
station,' and we servants went back alone to the 



Lethbury, surveying his wife across the dinner 
table, found his transient glance arrested by an 
indefinable change in her appearance. 

^ How smart you look ! Is that a new 
gown ? ' he asked. 

Her answering look seemed to deprecate his 
charging her vnth the extravagance of wasting a 
new gown on him, and he now perceived that the 
change lay deeper than any accident of dress. 
At the same time, he noticed that she betrayed 
her consciousness of it by a delicate, almost 
frightened blush. It was one of the compensa- 
tions of Mrs. Lethbury's protracted childishness 
that she still blushed as prettily as at eighteen. 
Her body had been privileged not to outstrip 
her mind, and the two, as it seemed to Lethbury, 
were destined to travel together through an 
eternity of girlishness. 

* I don't know what you mean,' she said. 

Since she never did, he always wondered at 
her bringing this out as a fresh grievance against 
him ; but his wonder was unresentfiil, and he 

i6i M 


said good-humouredly : * You sparkle so that I 
thought you had on your diamonds.' 
She sighed and blushed again. 

* It must be/ he continued, * that youVe been 
to a dressmaker's opening. YouVe absolutely 
brimming with illicit enjoyment' 

She stared again, this time at the adjective. 
His adjectives always embarrassed her : their 
unintelligibleness savoured of impropriety. 

* In short,' he summed up, * you've been doing 
something that you're thoroughly ashamed of.' 

To his surprise she retorted : * I don't sec 
why I should be ashamed of it ! ' 

Lethbury leaned back with a smile of enjoy- 
ment. When there was nothing better going he 
always liked to listen to her explanations. 

< Well f ' he said. 

She was becoming breathless and ejaculatory. 
*0f course you'll laugh — ^you laugh at every- 
thing ! ' 

* That rather blunts the point of my derision, 
doesn't it ? ' he interjected ; but she pushed on 
without noticing : 

* It's so easy to laugh at things.' 

* Ah,' murmured Lethbury with relish, * that's 
your Aunt Sophronia's, isn't it ? ' 

Most of his wife's opinions were heirlooms, 
and he took a quaint pleasure in tracing their 
descent. She was proud of their age, and saw 
no reason for discarding them while they were 
still serviceable. Some, of course, were so fine 
that she kept them for state occasions, like her 


great -grandmother's Crown Derby ; but from 
Sie lady known as Aunt Sophronia she had 
inherited a stout set of every-day prejudices that 
were practically as good as new ; whereas her 
husband's, as she noticed, were always having to 
be replaced. In the early days she had fancied 
there might be a certam satisfaction in taxing him 
with the fact ; but she had long since been 
silenced by the reply : * My dear, I m not a rich 
man, but I never use an opinion twice if I can 
help it/ 

She was reduced, therefore, to dwelling on 
his moral deficiencies ; and one of the most 
obvious of these was his refusal to take things 
seriously. On this occasion, however, some 
ulterior purpose kept her from taking up lus 

^ Tm not in the least ashamed ! ' she repeated, 
with the air of shaking a banner to the wind ; 
but the domestic atmosphere being calm, the 
banner drooped unheroically. 

* That,' said Lethbury judicially, * encourages 
me to infer that you ought to be, and that, 
consequently, you've been giving yourself the 
unusual pleasure of doing something I shouldn't 
approve of.' 

She met this with an almost solemn directness. 
* No,' she said. * You won't approve of it. I've 
allowed for that.' 

* Ah,' he exclaimed, setting down his liqueur- 
glass. * You've worked out the whole problem, 


* I bdievc so/ 

' That's uncommonly interesting. And what 

She looked at him quietly. < A baby.' 
If it was seldom given her to surprise him, 
she had attained the distinction for once. 

* A — ^human baby ? ' 

* Of course ! ' she cried, with the virtuous 
resentment of the woman who has never allowed 
dogs in the house. 

Lethbury's puzzled stare broke into a fresh 
smile. *A baby I shan't approve of? Well, 
in the abstract I don't tlunk much of them, I 
admit. Is this an abstract baby ? ' 

Again she frowned at the adjective ; but she 
had reached a pitch of exaltation at which such 
obstacles could not deter her. 

* It's the loveliest baby ' she murmured. 

*Ah, then it's concrete. It exists. In this 

harsh world it draws its breath in pain ' 

^ It's the healthiest child I ever saw ! ' she 
indignantly corrected. 

* I ou've seen it, then ? ' 

Again the accusing blush suffused her. < Yes 
— I've seen it.' 

^ And to whom does the paragon belong ? ' 

And here indeed she confounded him. ^ To 
me — I hope,' she declared. 

He pushed lus chair back with an articulate 
murmur. * To you ? ' 


* To usy she corrected, 

^ Good Lord ! * he said. If there had been 
the least hint of hallucination in her transparent 
gaze — but no : it was as clear, as shallow, as 
easily fathomable as when he had first suffered 
the sharp surprise of striking bottom in it. 

It occurred to him that perhaps she was 
trying to be funny : he knew that there is 
nothing more cryptic than the humour of the 

* Is it a joke ? ' he faltered. 

^ Oh, I hope not. I want it so much to be 
a reality * 

He paused to smile at the limitations of a 
world in which jokes were not realities, and con- 
tinued gently : * But since it is one already * 

^ To us, I mean : to you and me. I want 
-* her voice wavered, and her eyes with it. 

^ I have always wanted so dreadfully ... it has 
been such a disappointment . . . not to . . .' 

* I see,* said Lethbury slowly. 

But he had not seen before. It seemed 
curious now that he had never thought of her 
taking it in that way, had never surmised any 
hidden depths beneath her outspread obvious* 
ness. He felt as though he had touched a secret 
spring in her mind. 

There was a moment's silence, moist and 
tremulous on her part, awkward and slightly 
irritated on his. 

* YouVe been lonely, I suppose ? ' he began. 
It was odd, having suddenly to reckon with 


the stranger who gazed at him out of her trivial 

* At times/ she said. 

* I'm sorry.* 

* It was not your fault. A man has so many 
occupations; and women who are clever — or 
very handsome — I suppose that's an occupation 
too. Sometimes I've felt that when dinner was 
ordered I had nothing to do till the next day.' 

* Oh/ he groaned. 

* It wasn't your fault,' she insisted. * I never 
told you — but when I chose that rose-bud 
paper for the front room upstairs, I always 
thought ' 

* Well ? ' 

* It would be such a pretty paper — ^for a baby 
— to wake up in. That was years ago, of 
course ; but it was rather an expensive paper 
. . . and it hasn't faded in the least . . .' she 
broke off incoherently. 

* It hasn't faded ? ' 

* No— and so I thought ... as we don't 
use the room for anything . . . now that Aunt 
Sophronia is dead ... I thought I might . . . 
you might ... oh, Julian, if you could only 
have seen it just waking up in its crib ! ' 

*Seen what — where? You haven't got a 
baby upstairs ? ' 

* Oh, no^not yet^ she said, with her rare 
laugh — the girlish bubbling of merriment that 
had seemed one of her chief graces in the early 
dajrs. It occurred to him that he had not given 


her enough things to laugh about lately. But 
then she needed such very elementary things : 
she was as difficult to amuse as a savage. He 
concluded that he was not sufficiently simple. 

* Alice,* he said almost solemnly, *what do 
you mean } * 

She hesitated a moment : he saw her gather 
her courage for a supreme efFort. Then she 
said slowly, gravely, as though she were pro- 
nouncing a sacramental phrase : 

* I'm so lonely without a little child — and I 
thought perhaps you'd let me adopt one. . . . 
It's at the hospitd • • . its mother is dead . . . 
and I could ... pet it, and dress it, and do 
things for it . . . and it's such a good baby 
. . . you can ask any of the nurses ... it 
would never, never bother you by crying. . . .* 


Lethbury accompanied his wife to the hospital 
in a mood of chastened wonder. It did not 
occur to him to oppose her wisL He knew, of 
course, that he would have to bear the brunt of 
the situation : the jokes at the club, the enquiries, 
the explanations. He saw himself in the comic 
role of the adopted hihcr and welcomed it as 
an expiation. For in his rapid reconstruction 
of the past he found himself cutting a shabbier 
^gure than he cared to admit. He had always 
/ been intolerant of stupid people, and it was his 
\ punishment to be convicted of stupidity. As his 
mind traversed the years between his marriage 
and this unexpected assumption of paternity, he 
saw, in the light of an overheated imagination, 
many signs of unwonted crassness. It was not 
that he had ceased to think his wife stupid : she 
was stupid, limited, inflexible ; but there was a 
pathos in the struggles of her swaddled mind, in 
its blind reachings toward the primal emotions. 
He had always thought she would have been 
happier with a child; but he had thought it 
mechanically, because it had so often been 



thought before, because it was in the nature 
of things to think it of every woman, because 
his wife was so eminently one of a species that 
she fitted into all the generalizations on the 
sex. But he had regarded this generalization as 
merely typical of the triumph of tradition over 
experience. Maternity was no doubt the supreme 
function of primitive woman, the one end to 
which her whole organism tended ; but the law 
of increasing complexity had operated in both 
sexes, and he had not seriously supposed that, 
outside the world of Christmas fiction and anec- 
dotic art, such truisms had any special hold on 
the feminine imagination. Now he saw that the 
arts in question were kept alive by the vitality 
of the sentiments they appealed to. 

Lethbury was in fact going through a rapid 
process of readjustment. His marriage had been 
a failure, but he had preserved toward his wife 
the exact fidelity of act that is sometimes sup- 
posed to excuse any divagation of feeling ; so 
that, for years, the tie between them had con- 
sisted mainly in his abstaining from making 
love to other women. The abstention had not 
always been easy, for the world is surprisingly 
well-stocked with the kind of woman one ought 
to have married but did not ; and Lethbury had 
not escaped the solicitation of such alternatives. 
His immunity had been purchased at the cost of 
taking refuge in the somewhat rarefied atmosphere 
of his perceptions; and his world being thus 
limited, he had given unusual care to its details, 


compensating himself for the narrowness of his 
horizon by the minute finish of his foreground. 
It was a world of fine shadings and the nicest 
proportions, where impulse seldom set a blunder- 
ing foot, and the feast of reason was undisturbed 
by an intemperate flow of soul. To such a 
banquet his wife naturally remained uninvited. 
The diet would have disagreed with her, and 
she would probably have objected to the other 
guests. But Lethbury, miscalculating her needs, 
had hitherto supposed that he had made ample 
provision for them, and was consequently at 
liberty to enjoy his own fare without any re- 
proach of mendicancy at his gates. Now he 
beheld her pressing a starved i&ce against the 
windows of his life, and in his imaginative 
reaction he invested her with a pathos borrowed 
from the sense of his own shortcomings. 

In the hospital the imaginative process con- 
tinued with increasing force. He looked at his 
wife with new eyes. Formerly she had been to 
him a mere bundle of negations, a labyrinth of 
dead walls and bolted doors. There was nothing 
behind the walls, and the doors led nowhither : 
he had sounded and listened often enough to be 
sure of that. Now he felt like a traveller who, 
exploring some ancient ruin, comes on an inner 
cell, intact amid the general dilapidation, and 
painted with images which reveal the forgotten 
uses of the building. 

His wife stood by a white crib in one of the 
wards. In the crib lay a child, a year old, the 



nurse affirmed, but to Lethbury*s eye a mere 
dateless fragment of humanity projected against 
a background of conjecture. Over this anony- 
mous particle of life Mrs. Lethbury leaned, such 
ecstasy reflected in her face as strikes up, in 
Corrcggio's Night-piece, from the child's body 
to the mother's countenance. It was a light 
that irradiated and dazzled her. She looked up 
at an enquiry of Lethbury's, but as their glances 
met he perceived that she no longer saw him, 
that he had become as invisible to her as she 
had long been to him. He had to transfer his 
question to the nurse. 

* What is the child's name f ' he asked. 

* We call her Jane,' said the nurse. 


Lbthburv, at first, had resisted the idea of a 
legal adoption ; but when he found that his wife 
could not be brought to regard the child as hers 
till it had been made so by process of law, he 
promptly withdrew his objection. On one point 
only he remained inflexible ; and that was the 
changing of the waif's name. Mrs. Lethbury, 
almost at once, had expressed a wish to rechristen 
it : she fluctuated between Muriel and Gladys, 
deferring the moment of decision like a lady 
waverinc between two bonnets. But Lethbury 
was unyielding. In the general surrender of h^ 
prejudices this one alone neld out. 

* But Jane is so dreadful,' Mrs. Lethbury 

*Well, we don't know that she won't be 
dreadful. She may grow up a Jane.* 

His wife exclaimed reproachfully, * The nurse 
says she's the loveliest ' 

* Don't they always say that ? ' asked Lethbury 
patiently. He was prepared to be inexhaustibly 
patient now that he had reached a firm foothold 
of opposition. 



* It's cruel to call her Jane/ Mrs. Lethbury 

^ It's ridiculous to call her Muriel.' 
*The nurse is sure she must be a lady's 

Lethbury winced : he had tried, all along, 
to keep his mind off the question of ante- 

* Well, let her prove it,' he said, with a rising 
sense of exasperation. He wondered how he 
could ever have allowed himself to be drawn 
into such a ridicidous business ; for the first time 
he felt the full irony of it. He had visions 
of coming home in the afternoon to a house 
smelling of linseed and paregoric, and of 
being greeted by a chronic howl as he went 
upst^rs to dress for dinner. He had never 
been a dub-man, but he saw himself becoming 
one now. 

The worst of his anticipations were unful- 
filled. The baby was surprisingly well and 
surprisingly quiet. Such infantile remedies as 
she absorbed were not potent enough to be per- 
ceived beyond the nursery ; and when Lethbury 
could be induced to enter that sanctuary, there 
was nothing to jar his nerves in the mild pink 
presence or his adopted daughter. Jars there 
were, indeed : they were probably inevitable in 
the disturbed routine of the household ; but 
they occurred between Mrs. Lethbury and the 
nurses, and Jane contributed to them only a 



placid stare which might have served as a rebuke 
to the combatants. 

In the reaction from his first impulse of 
atonement, Lethbury noted with sharpened per- 
ceptions the effect of the change on his wife's 
character. He saw already the error of sup- 
posing that it could work any transformation in 
her. It simply magnified her existing qualities. 
I She was like a dried sponge put in water : she 
expanded, but she did not change her shape. 
From the stand-point of scientific observation it 
was curious to see how her stored instincts re- 
sponded to the pseudo-maternal call. She over- 
flowed with the petty maxims of the occasion. 
One felt in her the epitome, the consummation, 
of centuries of animal maternity, so that this 
little woman, who screamed at a mouse and was 
nervous about burglars, came to typify the cave- 
mother rending 'her prey for her young. 

It was less easy to regard philosophically the 
practical effects of her borrowed motherhood. 
Lethbury found with surprise that she was be- 
coming assertive and definite. She no longer 
represented the negative side of his life ; she 
showed, indeed, a tendency to inconvenient 
affirmations. She had gradually expanded her 
assumption of motherhood till it included his 
own share in the relation, and he suddenly found 
himself regarded as the father of Jane. This 
was a contingency he had not foreseen, and it 
took all his philosophy to accept it ; but there 
were moments of compensation. For Mrs. 


Lethbiuy was undoubtedly happy for the first 
time in years ; and the thought that he had 
tardily contributed to this end reconciled him to 
the irony of the means. 

At first he was inclined to reproach himself 
for still viewing the situation from the outside, 
for remaining a spectator instead of a parti- 
cipant. He had been allured, for a moment, 
by the vision of severed hands meeting over a 
cradle, as the whole body of domestic fiction 
bears witness to their doing ; and the fact that 
no such conjunction took place he could explain 
only on the ground that it was a borrowed 
cradle. He did not dislike the little girl. She 
still remained to him a hypothetical presence, a 
query rather than a fact ; but her nearness was 
not unpleasant, and there were moments when 
her tentative utterances, her groping steps, 
seemed to loosen the dry accretibns enveloping 
his inner self. But even at such moments — 
moments which he invited and caressed — she 
did not bring him nearer to his wife. He now 
perceived that he had made a certain place in 
his life for Mrs. Lethbury, and that she no 
longer fitted into it. It was too late to enlarge 
the space, and so she overflowed and encroached. 
Lethbury struggled against the sense of sub- 
mergence. He let down barrier after barrier, 
yielding privacy after privacy ; but his wife's 
personality continued to dilate. She was no 
longer herself alone : she was herself and Jane. 
Gradually, in a monstrous fusion of identity, she 


became herself, himself and Jane ; and instead 
of trying to adapt her to a spare crevice of his 
character, he found himself carelessly squeezed 
into the smallest compartment of the domestic 


He continued to tell himself that he was satisfied 
if his wife was happy ; and it was not till the 
child's tenth year that he felt a doubt of her 

Jane had been a preternaturally good child. 
During the eight years of her adoption she had 
caused her foster-parents no anxiety beyond 
those connected with the usual succession of 
youthful diseases. But her unknown progeni- 
tors had given her a robust constitution, and 
she passed unperturbed through measles, chicken- 
pox and whooping-cough. If there was any 
suffering it was endured vicariously by Mrs. 
Lethbury, whose temperature rose and fell with 
the patient's, and who could not hear Jane 
sneeze without visions of a marble angel weep- 
ing over a broken column. But though Jane's 
prompt recoveries continued to belie such pre- 
monitions, though her existence continued to 
move forward on an even keel of good health 
and good conduct, Mrs. Lethbury's satisfaction 
showed no corresponding advance. Lethbury, 
at first, was disposed to add her disappointment 

177 N 


to the long list of feminine inconsistencies with 
which the sententious observer of life builds up 
his favourite induction ; but circumstances pre- 
sently led him to take a kindlier view of the case. 

Hitherto his wife had r^arded him as a 
negligible factor in Jane's evolution. Beyond 
providing for his adopted daughter, and effac- 
ing himself before her, he was not expected to 
contribute to her well-being. But as time 
passed he appeared to his wLre in a new light. 
It was he who was to educate Jane. In matters 
of the intellect, Mrs. Lethbury was the first to 
declare her deficiencies — ^to proclaim them, even, 
with a certain virtuous superiority. She said she 
did not pretend to be clever, and there was no 
denying the truth of the assertion. Now, how- 
ever, she seemed less ready, not to own her 
limitations, but to glory in them. G>nfronted 
with the problem or Jane's instruction she stood 
in awe of^ the child. 

* I have always been stupid, you know,' she 
said to Lethbury with a new humility, ^ and I'm 
afraid I shan't know what is best for Jane. I'm 
sure she has a wonderfully good mind, and I 
should reproach myself if I didn't give her every 
opportunity,' She looked at him helplessly, 
* You must tell me what ought to be done.' 

Lethbury was not unwilling to oblige her. 
Somewhere in his mental lumber-room there 
rusted a theory of education such as usually 
lingers among the impedimenta of the childless. 
He brought this out, refurbished it, and applied 


it to Jane. At first he thought his wife had 
not overrated the quality of the child's mind. 
Jane seemed extraordinarily intelligent. Her 
precocious definiteness of mind was encouraging 
to her inexperienced preceptor. She had no 
difficulty in fixing her attention, and he felt 
that every fact he imparted was being etched 
in metal. He helped his wife to engage the 
best teachers, and for a while continued to take 
an ex-official interest in his adopted daughter's 
studies. But gradually his interest waned. 
Jane's ideas did not increase with her acqui* 
sitions. Her young mind remained a mere 
receptacle for facts : a kind of cold-storage 
from which anything which had been put there 
could be taken out at a moment's notice, intact 
but congealed. She developed, moreover, an 
inordinate pride in the capacity of her mental 
storehouse, and a tendency to pelt her public 
with its contents. She was overheard to jeer at her 
nurse for not knowing when the Saxon Hept- 
archy had fallen, and she alternately dazzled 
and depressed Mrs. Lethbury by the wealth of 
her chronological allusions. She showed no 
interest in the significance of the facts she 
amassed : she simply collected dates as another 
child might have collected stamps or marbles. 
To her foster-mother she seemed a prodigy of 
wisdom ; but Lethbury saw, with a secret 
movement of sympathy, how the aptitudes in 
which Mrs. Lethbury gloried were slowly 
estranging her from her chUd. 


* She is getting too clever for me,* his wife 
said to him, after one of Jane's historical flights, 
^ but I am so glad that she will be a companion 
to you.* 

Lethbury groaned in spirit. He did not 
look forward to Jane's companionship. She 
was still a good little girl : but there was some- 
thing automatic and formal in her goodness, 
as though it were a kind of moral c^isthenics 

\ which she went through for the sake of showing 
her agility. An early consciousness of virtue had 
moreover constituted her the natural guardian 
and adviser of her elders. Before she was 
fifteen she had set about reforming the house- 
hold. She took Mrs. Lethbury in hand first ; 
then she extended her efforts to the servants, 
with consequences more disastrous to the 
domestic harmony ; and lastly she applied 
herself to Lethbury. She proved to him by 
statistics that he smoked too much, and that 
it was injurious to the optic nerve to read in 
bed. She took him to task for not going to 
church more regularly, and pointed out to him 
the evils of desultory reading. She suggested 
that a regular course of study encourages mental 
concentration, and hinted that inconsecutiveness 
of thought is a sign of approaching age. 

To her adopt^ mother her suggestions were 
equally pertinent. She instructed Mrs. Lethbury 
in an improved way of making beef stock, and 
called her attention to the unhygienic qualities 
of carpets. She poured out distracting facts 


about bacilli and vegetable mould, and demon- 
strated that curtains and picture-frames are a 
hot-bed of animal organisms. She learnt by 
heart the nutritive ingredients of the principal 
articles of diet, and revolutionized the cuisine 
by an attempt to establish a scientific average 
between starch and phosphates. Four cooks 
left during this experiment, and Lethbury fell 
into the habit of dining at his club. 

Once or twice, at the outset, he had tried to 
check Jane's ardour ; but his efforts resulted 
only in hurting his wife's feelings. Jane re- 
mained impervious, and Mrs. Lethbury resented 
any attempt to protect her from her daughter. 
Lethbury saw that she was consoled for the 
sense of her own inferiority by the thought of 
what Jane's intellectual companionship must be 
to him ; and he tried to keep up the illusion 
by enduring with what grace he might the 
blighting edification of Jane's discourse. 

# -^ » 

As Jane grew up he sometimes avenged himself 
by wondering if his wife was still sorry that 
they had not called her Muriel. Jane was not 
ugly ; she developed, indeed, a lund of cate- 
gorical prettiness which might have been a 
projection of her mind. She had a creditable 
collection of features, but one had to take an 
inventory of them to find out that she was 
good-looking. The fusing grace had been 

Mrs. Lethbury took a touching pride in her 
daughter's first steps in the world. She ex- 
pected Jane to take by her complexion those 
whom she did not capture by her learning. 
But Jane's rosy freshness did not work any 
perceptible ravages. Whether the young men 
guessed the axioms on her lips and detected the 
encyclopaedia in her eye, or whether they simply 
found no intrinsic interest in these features, 
certain it is, that, in spite of her mother's heroic 
efforts, and of incessant calls on Lethbury 's 
purse, Jane, at the end of her first season, had 
tflropped hopelessly out of the running. A few 



duller girls found her interesting, and one or 
two young men came to the house with the 
object of meeting other young women ; but she 
was rapidly becoming one of the social super- 
numeraries who are asked out only because they 
are on people's lists. 

The blow was bitter to Mrs. Lethbury ; but 
she consoled herself with the idea that Jane had 
failed because she was too clever. Jane probably 
shared this conviction ; at all events she betrayed 
no consciousness of failure. She had developed 
a pronounced taste for society, and went out, 
unweariedly and obstinately, winter after winter, 
while Mrs. Lethbury toiled in her wake, shower- 
ing attentions on oblivious hostesses. To Leth- 
bury there was something at once tragic and 
exasperating in the sight of their two figures, 
the one conciliatory, the other dogged, both 
pursuing with unabated zeal the elusive prize 
of popularity. He even began to feel a personal 
stake in the pursuit, not as it concerned Jane 
but as it afiected his wife. He saw that the 
latter was the victim of Jane's disappointment : 
that Jane was not above the crude satisfaction 
of * taking it out ' of her mother. Experience 
checked the impulse to come to his wife's 
defence ; and when his resentment was at its 
height, Jane disarmed him by giving up the 

Nothing was said to mark her capitulation ; 
but Lethbury noticed that the visiting ceased 
and that the dressmaker's bills diminished. At 


the same time Mrs. Lethbury made it known 
that Jane had taken up charities ; and before 
long Jane's conversation confirmed this an- 
nouncement. At first Lethbury congratulated 
himself on the change ; but Jane's domesticity 
soon began to weigh on him. During the day 
she was sometimes absent on errands of mercy ; 
but in the evening she was always there. At 
first she and Mrs. Lethbury sat in the drawing- 
room together, and Lethbury smoked in the 
library ; but presently Jane formed the habit 
of joining him there, and he began to suspect 
that he was included among the objects of her 

Mrs. Lethbury confirmed the suspicion. 
^Jane has grown very serious-minded lately/ 
she said. * ohe imagines that she used to neglect 
you, and she is trying to make up for it. Don't 
discourage her/ she added innocently. 

Such a plea delivered Lethbury helpless to 
his daughter's ministrations ; and he found 
himself measuring the hours he spent mth her 
by the amount of relief they must be affording 
her mother. There were even moments when he 
read a furtive gratitude in Mrs. Lethbury's eye. 

But Lethbury was no hero, and he had 
nearly reached the limit of vicarious endurance 
when something wonderful happened. They 
never quite knew afterward how it had come 
about, or who first perceived it ; but Mrs. 
Lethbury one day gave tremulous voice to their 


•Of course/ she said, *he comes here be- 
cause of Elise/ The young lady in question, a 
friend of Jane's, was possessed of attractions 
which had already been found to explain the 
presence of masculine visitors. 

Lethbury risked a denial. *I don't think 
he does,' he declared. 

*But Elise is thought very pretty,' Mrs. 
Lethbury insisted. 

* I can't help that,* said Lethbury doggedly. 
He saw a faint light in his wife's eyes ; but 

she remarked carelessly : * Mr. Budd would be 
a very good match for Elise.' 

Lethbury could hardly repress a chuckle : he 
was so exquisitely aware that she was trying to 
propitiate the gods. 

For a few weeks neither said ar word ; then 
Mrs. Lethbury once more reverted to the 

* It is a month since Elise went abroad,* she 


* And Mr. Budd seems to come here just as 
often ' 

* Ah,* said Lethbury with heroic indifference ; 
and lus Tnfe hastily changed the subject. 

Mr. Winstanley Budd was a young man 
who suflered from an excess of manner. Polite- 
ness gushed from him in the driest seasons. 
He was always performing feats of drawing- 
room chivalry, and the approach of the most 
imobtilisive female threw him into attitudes 


; which endangered the furniture. His features, 
being of the cherubic order, did not lend them- 
selves to this role ; but there were moments 
when he appeared to dominate them, to force 
them into compliance with an aquiline ideal. 
The range of Mr. Budd's social benevolence 
made its object hard to distinguish. He spread 
his cloak so indiscriminately that one could not 
always interpret the gesture, and Jane's im- 
passive manner had the effect of increasing his 
demonstrations : she threw him into paroxysms 
of politeness. 

At first he filled the house with his ameni- 
ties ; but gradually it became apparent that his 
most dazzling effects were directed exclusively 
to Jane. Lethbury and his wife held their 
breath and looked away from each other. They 
pretended not to notice the frequency of Mr. 
Budd's visits, they struggled agsdnst an impru- 
dent inclination to leave the young people too 
much alone. Their conclusions were the result 
of indirect observation, for neither of them 
dared to be caught watching Mr. Budd : they 
behaved like naturalists on the trail of a rare 

In his efForts not to notice Mr. Budd, Leth- 
bury centred his attentions on Jane ; and Jane, 
at this crucial moment, wrung from him a 
reluctant admiration. While her parents went 
about dissembling their emotions, she seemed 
to have none to conceal. She betrayed neither 
eagerness nor surprise ; so complete was her 


unconcern that there were moments when Leth- 
bury feared it was obtuseness, when he could 
hardly help whispering to her that now was the 
moment to lower the net. 

Meanwhile the velocity of Mr. Budd*s gyra- 
tions increased with the ardour of courtship : his 
politeness became incandescent, and Jane found 
herself the centre of a pyrotechnical display 
culminating in the 'set piece' of an offer of 

Mrs. Lethbury imparted the news to her 
husband one evening after their daughter had 
gone to bed. The announcement was made 
and received with an air of detachment, as 
though both feared to be betrayed into un- 
seemly exultation ; but Lethbury, as his wife 
ended, could not repress the enquiry, *Have 
they decided on a day ? * 

Mrs. Lethbury's superior command of her 
features enabled her to look shocked. *What 
can you be thinking of? He only offered 
himself at five ! ' 

* Of course — of course — ' stammered Leth- 
bury — *but nowadays people marry after such 
short engagements r-' 

* Engagement ! * said his wife solemnly. 
* There is no engagement/ 

Lethbury dropped his cigar. *What on 
earth do you mean ? ' 

* Jane is thinking it over.' 

* Thinking it over ? * 

' She has asked for a month before deciding/ 


Lethbury sank back with a gasp. Was it 
genius or was it madness ? lie felt incom- 
petent to decide ; and Mrs. Lethbury's next 
words showed that she shared his difficulty. 

* Of course I don't want to hurry Jane ' 

* Of course not,' he acquiesced. 

' But I pointed out to her that a young man 
of Mr. Budd's impulsive temperament might — 
might be easily discouraged ' 

* Yes ; and what did she say ? ' 

^ She said that if she was worth winning she 
was worth waiting for.' 


The period of Mr. Budd's probation could 
scarcely have cost him as much mental anguish 
as it caused his would-be parents-in-law. 

Mrs. Lethbury, by various ruses, tried to 
shorten the ordeal, but Jane remained inexor- 
able ; and each morning Lethbury came down 
to breakfast with the certainty of finding a letter 
of withdrawal from her discouraged suitor. 

When at length the decisive day came, and 
Mrs. Lethbury, at its close, stole into the library 
with an air of chastened joy, they stood for a 
moment without speaking ; then Mrs. Lethbury 
paid a fitting tribute to the proprieties by falter- 
ing out : * It will be dreadful to have to give 
her up ' 

Lethbury could not repress a warning ges- 
ture ; but even as it escaped him he raized 
that his wife's grief was genuine. 

* Of course, of course,' he said, vainly sound- 
ing his own emotional shallows for an answering 
r^ret. And yet it was his wife who had suffered 
most from Jane ! 

He had fancied that these sufferings would 



be efFaced by the milder atmosphere of their 
last weeks together ; but felicity did not soften 
Jane. Not for a moment did she relax her 
dominion : she simply widened it to include a 
new subject. Mr. Budd found himself under 
orders with the others ; and a new fear assailed 
Lethbury as he saw Jane assume pre-nuptial 
control of her betrothed. Lethbury had never 
felt any strong personal interest in Mr. Budd ; 
but as* Jane's prospective husband the yoimg 
man excited his sympathy. To his surprise he 
found that Mrs. Lethbury shared the feeling. 

* I'm afraid he may find Jane a little exact- 
ing/ she said, after an evening dedicated to a 
stormy discussion of the wedding arrangements. 
' She really ought to make some concessions. If 
he wanfs to be married in a black frock-coat 

instead of a dark gray one ^ She paused 

and looked doubtfully at Lethbury. 

* What can I do aoout it ? ' he said. 

*You might explain to him — tell him that 
Jane isn't always ^ 

Lethbury made an impatient gesture. * What 
are you afraid of ? His finding her out or his 
not finding her out ? ' 

Mrs. Lethbury flushed. *You put it so 
dreadfully ! ' 

Her husband mused for a moment ; then he 
said mth an air of cheerful hypocrisy : * After 
all, Budd is old enough to take care of himself.' 

But the next day Mrs. Lethbury surprised 
him. Late in the afternoon she entered the 


library, so breathless and inarticulate that he 
scented a catastrophe. 

* I've done it ! ' she cried. 

* Done what ? ' 

* Told him/ She nodded toward the door. 
* He's just gone. Jane is out, and I had a 
chance to talk to him alone.' 

Lethbury pushed a chair forward and she 
sank into it. 

* What did you tell him f That she is nof 
always * 

Mrs. Lethbury lifted a tragic eye. * No ; I 
told him. that she always is ' 

* Always is ? * 

* Yes.' 

There was a pause. Lethbury made a call 
on his hoarded philosophy. He saw Jane sud- 
denly reinstated in her evening seat by the 
library fire ; but an answering chord in him 
thrilled at his wife's heroism. 

* Well — ^what did he say ? ' 

Mrs. Lethbury 's agitation deepened. It was 
dear that the blow had fallen. 

^He ... he said . . . that we . . . had 
never understood Jane ... or appreciated her 
. . .' The final syllables "were lost in her 
handkerchief, and she left him marvelling at 
the mechanism of woman. 

After that, Lethbury faced the future with 
an undaunted eye. They had done their duty 
— at least his wife had done hers — and they 
were reaping the usual harvest of ingratitude 


with a zest seldom accorded to such reaping. 
There was a marked change in Mr. Budd's 
manner, and his increasing coldness sent a 
genial glow through Lethbury's system. It 
was easy to bear with Jane in the light of 
Mr. Budd's disapproval. 

There was a good deal to be borne in the 
last days, and the brunt of it fell on Mrs. 
Lethbury. Jane marked her transition to the 
married state by a seasonable but incongruous 
display of nerves. She became sentimental, 
hysterical and reluctant. She quarrelled with 
her betrothed and threatened to return the ring. 
Mrs. Lethbury had to intervene, and Lethbury 
felt the hovering sword of destiny. But the 
blow was suspended. Mr. Budd's chivalry was 
proof against all his bride's caprices and his 
devotion throve on her cruelty. Lethbury 
feared that he was too fsuthful, too enduring, 
and longed to urge him to vary his tactics. 
Jane presently reappeared with the ring on her 
finger, and consented to try on the wedding* 
dress ; but her uncertainties, her reactions, were 
prolonged till the final day. 

When it dawned, Lethbury was still in an 
ecstasy of apprehension. F^ing reasonably 
sure of the principal actors he had centred his 
fears on incidental possibilities. The clergyman 
might have a stroke, or the church might burn 
down, or there might be something wrong with 
the license. He did all that was humanly 
possible to avert such contingencies, but there 


remained that incalculable factor known as the 
hand of God. Lethbury seemed to feel it 
groping for him. 

At the altar it almost had him by the nape. 
Mr. Budd was late ; and for five immeasurable 
minutes Lethbury and Jane faced a churchful 
of conjecture. Then the bridegroom appeared, 
flushed but chivalrous, and explaining to his 
father-in-law under cover of the ritual that he 
had torn his glove and had to go back for 

* You'll be losing the ring next,' muttered 
Lethbury ; but Mr. Budd produced this article 
punctually, and a moment or two later was 
bearing its wearer captive down the aisle. 

At the wedding-breakfast Lethbury caught 
his wife's eye fixed on him in mild disapproval, 
and understood that his hilarity was exceeding 
the bounds of fitness. He pulled himself 
together and tried to subdue his tone ; but his 
jubilation bubbled oyer like a champagne-glass 
perpetually refilled. The deeper his draughts 
the higher it rose. 

It was at the brim when, in the wake of the 
dispersing guests, Jane came down in her 
travelling-dress and fell on her mother s neck. 

* I can't leave you ! ' she wailed, and Lethbury 
felt as suddenly sobered as a man under a 
douche. But if the bride was reluctant her 
captor was relentless. Never had Mr. Budd 
been more dominant, more aquiline. Leth- 
bury 's last fears were dissipated as the young 



man snatched Jane from her mother's bosom 
and bore her off to the brougham. 

The brougham rolled away, the last milliner's 
girl forsook her post by the awning, the red 
carpet was folded up, and the house door closed. 
Lethbury stood alone in the hall with his wife. 
As he turned toward her, he noticed the look 
of tired heroism in her eyes, the deepened lines 
of her face. They reflected his own symptoms 
too accurately not to appeal to him. The 
nervous tension had been horrible. He went 
up to her, and an answering impulse made her 
lay a hand on his arm. rie held it there a 

* Let us go off* and have a jolly little dinner 
at a restaurant,' he proposed. 

There had been a time when such a sug- 
gestion would have surprised her to the verge 
of disapproval ; but now she agreed to it at 

* Oh, that would be so nice,' she murmured 
with a great sigh of relief and assuagement. 

Jane had fulfilled her mission atter all : she 
had drawn them together at last. 





* The marriage law of the new dispensation will 
be : 2'hou shah not be unfaithful — to thyself.^ 

A discreet murmur of approval filled the 
studio, and through the haze of cigarette smoke 
Mrs. Clement Westall, as her husband descended 
from his improvised platform, saw him merged 
in a congratulatory group of ladies. Westall's 
informal talks on * The New Ethics * had drawn 
about him an eager following of the mentally 
unemployed — those who, as he had once phrased 
it, Uked to have their brain -food cut up for 
them. The talks had begun by accident. 
Westall's ideas were known to be * advanced,' 
but hitherto their advance had not been in the 
direction of publicity. He had been, in his 
wife's opinion, almost pusillanimously careful 
not to let his personal views endanger his pro- 
.fessional standing. Of late, however, he had 
shown a puzzling tendency to dogmatize, to 
throw down the gauntlet, to flaunt his private 
code in the face of society ; and the relation of 
the sexes being a topic always sure of an audience, 
a few admiring friends had persuaded him to 



give lus after-dinner opinions a larger circulation 
by summing them up in a series of talks at the 
Van Sideren studio. 

The Herbert Van Siderens were a couple who 
subsisted, socially, on the fact that they had a 
studio. Van Sideren's pictures were chiefly 
valuable as accessories to the mise en scene which 
differentiated his wife's * afternoons' from the 
blighting functions held in long New York 
drawing-rooms, and permitted her to offer their 
friends whisky-and-soda instead of tea. Mrs. 
Van Sideren, for her part, was skilled in making 
the most of the kind of atmosphere which a lay- 
figure and an easel create ; and if at times she 
found the illusion hard to maintain, and lost 
courage to the extent of almost wishing that 
Herbert could paint, she promptly overcame 
such moments of weakness by calling in some 
fresh talent, some extraneous re-enforcement of 
the * artistic' impression. It was in quest of 
such aid that she had seized on Westall, coaxing 
him, somewhat to his wife's surprise, into a 
flattered participation in her fraud. It was 
vaguely felt, in the Van Sideren circle, that all 
the audacities were artistic, and that a teacher 
who pronounced marriage immoral was somehow 
as distinguished as a painter who depicted purple 
grass and a green sky. The Van Sideren set 
were tired of the conventional colour-scheme in 
art and conduct. 

Julia Westall had long had her own views 
on the immorality of marriage ; she might indeed. 


have claimed her husband as a disciple. In the 
early days of their union she had secretly resented 
his disinclination to proclaim himself a follower 
of the new creed ; had been inclined to tax him 
with moral cowardice, with a failure to live up 
to the convictions for which their marriage was 
supposed to stand. That was in the first burst 
of propagandism, when, womanlike, she wanted 
to turn her disobedience into a law. Now she 
felt difFerendy. She could hardly account for 
the change, yet being a woman who never allowed 
her impulses to remain unaccounted for, she tried 
to do so by saying that she did not care to have 
the articles of her faith misinterpreted by the 
vulgar. In this connection, she was beginning 
to think that almost every one was vulgar ; 
certainly there were few to whom she would 
have cared to intrust the defence of so esoteric 
a doctrine. And it was precisely at this point 
that Westall, discarding his unspoken principles, 
had chosen to descend from the heights of 
privacy, and stand hawking his convictions at 
the street-corner ! 

It was Una Van Sideren who, on this occa- 
sion, unconsciously focussed upon herself Mrs. 
Westall's wandering resentment. In the first 
place, the girl had no business to be there. It 
was * horrid ' — Mrs. Westall found herself slip- 
ping back into the old feminine vocabulary — 
simply * horrid ' to think of a young girl's being 
allowed to listen to such talk. The fact that 
Una smoked cigarettes and sipped an occasional 


cocktul did not in the least tarnish a certain 
radiant innocency which made her appear the 
victim, rather than the accomplice, of her 
parents* vulgarities. Julia Westall felt in a 
hot helpless way that something ought to be 
done — that some one ought to speak to the 
girl's mother. And just then Una glided up. 

* Oh, Mrs. Westall, how beautiful it was ! * 
Una fixed her with latge limpid eyes. *You 
believe it all, I suppose ? she asked with seraphic 

* All — what, my dear child ? ' 

The girl shone on her. * About the higher 
life — the freer expansion of the individual — ^the 
law of fidelity to one's self,' she glibly recited. 

Mrs. Westall, to her own wonder, blushed a 
deep and burning blush. 

* My dear Una,' she said, * you don't in the 
least understand what it's all about 1 ' 

Miss Van Sideren stared, with a slowly 
answering blush. * Don't you^ then ? ' she 

Mrs. Westall laughed. *Not always — or 
altogether ! But I should like some tea, 

Una led her to the corner where innocent 
beverages were dispensed. As Julia received 
her cup she scrutinized the girl more carefully. 
It was not such a girlish face, after all— definite 
lines were forming under the rosy haze of youth. 
She reflected that Una must be six-and-twenty, 
and wondered why she had not married. A 


nice stock of ideas she would have as her dower ! 
If they were to be a part of the modern girl's 


Mrs. Westall caught herself up with a start. 
It was as though some one else had been speak- 
ing — a stranger who had borrowed her own 
voice : she felt herself the dupe of some fantastic 
mental ventriloquism. Concluding suddenly 
that the room was stifling and Una's tea too 
sweet, she set down her cup and looked about 
for Westall : to meet his eyes had long been 
her refuge from every uncertainty. She met 
them now, but only, as she felt, in transit ; they 
included her parenthetically in a larger flight. 
She followed the flight, and it carried her to a 
corner to which Una had withdrawn — one of 
the palmy nooks to which Mrs. Van Sideren 
attributed the success of her Saturdays. Westall, 
a moment later, had overtaken his look, and 
found a place at the girl's side. She bent 
forward, speaking eagerly ; he leaned back, 
listening, with the depreciatory smile which 
acted as a filter to flattery, enabling him to 
swallow the strongest doses without apparent 
grossness of appetite. Julia winced at her own 
definition of the smile. 

On the way home, in the deserted winter 
dusk, Westall surprised his wife by a sudden 
boyish pressure of her arm. * Did I open their 
eyes a bit ? Did I tell them what you wanted 
me to ? ' he asked gaily. 


Almost unconsciously, she let her arm slip 
from his. * What / wanted ? ' 

* Why, haven't you — all this time ? ' She 
caught the honest wonder of his tone. ^ I some- 
how fancied you*d rather blamed me for not 

talking more openly — before . You almost 

made me feel, at times, that I was sacrificing 
principles to expediency.' 

She paused a moment over her reply ; then 
she asked quietly : * What made you decide 
not to — any longer ? ' 

She felt again the vibration of a faint surprise, 
* Why — the wish to please you ! ' he answered, 
almost too simply. 

* I wish you would not go on, then,' she said 

He stopped in his quick walk, and she felt 
his stare through the darkness. 

* Not go on ? ' 

* Call a hansom, please. I'm tired,' broke 
from her with a sudden rush of physical 

Instantly his solicitude enveloped her. The 
room had been infernally hot — and then that 
confounded cigarette smoke — he had noticed 
once or twice that she looked pale — she mustn't 
come to another Saturday. She felt herself 
yielding, as she always did, to the warm influence 
of his concern for her, the feminine in her lean- 
in? on the man in him with a conscious intensity 
of abandonment. He put her in the hansom, 
and her hand stole into his in the darkness. A 


tear or two rose, and she let them fall. It was 
so delicious to cry over imaginary troubles ! 

That evening, after dinner, he surprised her 
by reverting to the subject of his talk. He 
combined a man's dislike of uncomfortable 
questions with an almost feminine skill in elud- 
ing them ; and she knew that if he returned to 
the subject he must have some special reason 
for doing so. 

* You seem not to have cared for what I said 
this afternoon. Did I put the case badly ? * 

* No— you put it very well.* 

*Then what did you mean by saying that 
you would rather not have me go on with it ? ' 

She glanced at him nervously, her ignorance 
of his intention deepening her sense of helpless- 

*I don't think I care to hear such things 
discussed in public' 

*I don't understand you,* he exclaimed. 
Again the feeling that his surprise was genuine 
gave an air of obliquity to her own attitude. 
She was not sure that she understood herself. 

* Won't you explain ? ' he said with a tinge 
of impatience. 

Her eyes wandered about the familiar draw- 
ing-room which had been the scene of so many 
of their evening confidences. The shaded lamps, 
the quiet-coloured walls hung with mezzotints, 
the pale spring flowers scattered here and there 
in Venice glasses and bowls of old Sevres, 
recalled, she hardly knew why, the apartment 


in which the evenings of her first marriage had 
been passed — a wilderness of rosewood and 
upholstery, with a picture of a Roman peasant 
above the mantelpiece, and a Greek slave in 
* statuary marble ' between the folding-doors of 
the back drawing-room. It was a room with 
which she had never been able to establish any 
closer relation than that between a traveller and 
a railway station ; and now, as she looked about 
at the surroundings which stood for her deepest 
affinities — the room for which she had left that 
other room — ^she was startled by the same sense 
of strangeness and unfamiliarity. The prints, the 
flowers, the subdued tones of the old porcelains, 
seemed to typify a superficial refinement which 
had no relation to the deeper significances of life. 

Suddenly she heard her husband repeating 
his question. 

*I don't know that I can explain,' she 

He drew his arm-chair forward so that he 
faced her across the hearth. The light of a 
reading-lamp fell on his finely drawn face, 
which had a kind of surface-sensitiveness akin 
to the surface-refinement of its setting. 

*Is it that you no longer believe in our 
ideas ? ' he asked. 

* In our ideas ? ' 

' The ideas I am trying to teach. The ideas 
you and I are supposed to stand for.' He 
paused a moment. ^The ideas on which our 
marriage was founded.' 


The blood rushed to her face. He had his 
reasons, then — she was sure now that he had 
his reasons ! In the ten years of their marriage, 
how often had either of them stopped to con- 
sider the ideas on which it was founded ? How 
often does a man dig about the basement of his 
house to examine its foundation ? The founda- 
tion is there, of course — the house rests on it — 
but one lives above-stairs and not in the cellar. 
It was she, indeed, who in the beginning had 
insisted on reviewing the situation now and 
then, on recapitulating the reasons which justi- 
fied her course, on proclaiming, from time to 
time, her adherence to the religion of personal 
independence ; but she had long ceased to feel 
the want of any such ideal standards, and had 
accepted her marriage as frankly and naturally 
as though it had been based on the primitive 
needs of the heart, and required no special 
sanction to explain or justify it. 

* Of course I still believe in our ideas ! ' she 

* Then I repeat that I don*t understand. It 
was a part of your theory that the greatest 
possible publicity should be given to our view 
of marriage. Have you changed your mind in 
that respect ? ' 

She hesitated. * It depends on circumstances 
—on the public one is addressing. The set of 
people that the Van Siderens get about them 
don*t care for the truth or falseness of a doctrine. 
They are attracted simply by its novelty.* 


* And yet it was in just such a set of people 
that you and I met, and learned the truth from 
each other.' 

* That was different/ 

* In what way ? ' 

* I was not a young girl, to begin with. It 
is perfectly unfitting that young girls should be 
present at — at such times — should hear such 
things discussed * 

* I thought you considered it one of the 
deepest social wrongs that such things never 
are discussed before young girls ; but that is 
beside the point» for I don't remember seeing 
any young girl in my audience to-day ' 

* Except Una Van Sideren ! * 

He turned slightly and pushed back the lamp 
at his elbow. 

* Oh, Miss Van Sideren — naturally ' 

* Why naturally ? * 

*The daughter of the house — would you 
have had her sent out with her governess ? ' 

^ If I had a daughter I should not allow such 
things to go on in my house ! ' 

Westall, stroking his mustache, leaned back 
with a faint smile. ' I fancy Miss Van Sideren 
is quite capable of taking care of herself.' 

* No girl knows how to take care of herself — 
till it's too late.' 

* And yet you would deliberately deny her 
the surest means of self-defence i ' 

* What do you call the' surest means of self- 
defence ? ' 


*Some preliminary knowledge of human 
nature in its relation to the marriage tie.* 

She made an impatient gesture. *How 
should you like to marry that kind of a girl ? ' 

* Immensely — if she were my kind of girl in 
other respects.* 

She took up the argument at another point. 

* You are quite mistaken if you think such 
talk does not afFect young girls. Una was in 

a state of the most al^urd exaltation ' She 

broke ofF, wondering why she had spoken. 

Westall reopened a magazine which he had 
laid aside at the beginning of their discussion. 
* What you tell me is immensely flattering to 
my oratorical talent — but I fear you overrate 
its effect. I can assure you that Miss Van 
Sideren doesn't have to have her thinking done 
for her. She's quite capable of doing it herself.' 

•You seem very familiar with her mental 
processes ! ' flashed unguardedly from his wife. 

He looked up quietly from the pages he was 

*I should like to be,' he answered. 'She 
interests me.' 


If there be a distinction in being misunderstood, 
it was one denied to Julia Westall when she left 
her first husband. Every one was ready to 
excuse and even to defend her. The world 
she adorned agreed that John Arment was 
* impossible/ and hostesses gave a sigh of relief 
at the thought that it would no longer be 
necessary to ask him to dine. 

There had been no scandal connected with 
the divorce : neither side had accused the 
other of the ofFence euphemistically described 
as * statutory.' The Arments had indeed been 
obliged to transfer their allegiance to a State 
which recognized desertion as a cause for 
divorce, and construed the term so liberally 
that the seeds of desertion were shown to exist 
in every union. Even Mrs. Arment's second 
marriage did not make traditional morality stir 
in its sleep. It was known that she had not 
met her second husband till after she had parted 
from the first, and she had, moreover, replaced 
a rich man by a poor one. Though Clement 
Westall was acknowledged to be a rising lawyer, 



it was generally felt that his fortunes would not 
rise as rapidly as his reputation. The Westalls 
would probably always have to live quietly and 
go out to dinner in cabs. Could there be 
better evidence of Mrs. Arment's complete 
disinterestedness ? 

If the reasoning by which her friends justified 
her course was somewhat cruder and less com- 
plex than her own elucidation of the matter, 
both explanations led to the same conclusion : 
John Arment was impossible. The only differ- 
ence was that, to his wife, his impossibility was 
something deeper than a social disqualification. 
She had once said, in ironical defence of her 
marriage, that it had at least preserved her from 
the necessity of sitting next to him at dinner ; 
but she had not then realized at what cost the 
immunity was purchased. John Arment was 
impossible ; but the sting of his impossibility 
lay in the fact that he made it impossible for^ 
those about him to be other than himself. By 
an unconscious process of elimination he had 
excluded from the world everything of which he 
did not feel a personal need : had become, as it 
were, a climate in which only his own requirements 
survived. This might seem to imply a deliber- 
ate selfishness ; but there was nothing deliberate 
about Arment. He was as instinctive as an 
animal or a child. It was this childish element 
in his nature which sometimes for a moment 
unsettled his wife's estimate of him. Was it 
possible that he was simply undeveloped, that 


he had delayed, somewhat longer than is usual, 
the laborious process of growing up ? He had 
the kind of sporadic shrewdness which causes it 
to be said of a dull man that he is * no fool * ; 
and it was this quality that his wife found most 
trying. Even to the naturalist it is annoying to 
have his deductions disturbed by some unfore- 
seen aberrancy of form or function ; and how 
much more so to the wife whose estimate of 
herself is inevitably bound up with her judg- 
ment of her husband ! 

Arment's shrewdness did not, indeed, imply 
: any latent intellectual power ; it suggested, 
: rather, potentialities of feeling, of suffering, 
perhaps, in a blind rudimentary way, on which 
Julia's sensibilities naturally declined to linger. 
She so fully understood her own reasons for 
leaving him that she disliked to think they 
were not as comprehensible to her husband. 
She was haunted, in her analytic moments, 
by the look of perplexity, too inarticulate for 
words, with which he had acquiesced in her 

These moments were rare with her, how- 
ever. Her marriage had been too concrete a 
misery to be surveyed philosophically. If she 
had been unhappy for complex reasons, the 
unhappiness was as real as though it had been 
uncomplicated. Soul is more bruisable than 
flesh, and Julia was wounded in every fibre of 
her spirit. Her husband's personality seemed 
to be closing gradually in on her, obscuring the 


sky and cutting ofF the air, till she felt herself 
shut up among the decaying bodies of her 
starved hopes. A sense of having been de- 
coyed by some world-old conspiracy into this 
bondage of body and soul filled her with despair. 
If marriage was the slow life-long acquittal of 
a debt contracted in ignorance, then marriage 
was a crime against human nature. She, for 
one, would have no share in maintaining the 
pretence of which she had been a victim : the 
pretence that a man and a woman, forced into 
the narrowest of personal relations, must remain 
there till the end, though they may have out- 
grown the span of each other's natures as the 
mature tree outgrows the iron brace about the 

It was in the first heat of her moral indigna- 
tion that she had met Clement Westall. She 
had seen at once that he was ' interested,' and 
had fought off the discovery, dreading any in- 
fluence that should draw her back into the 
bondage of conventional relations. To ward oflT 
the peril she had, with an almost crude precipi- 
tancy, revealed her opinions to him. To her 
surprise, she found that he shared them. She 
was attracted by the frankness of a suitor who, 
while pressing his suit, admitted that he did not 
believe in marriage. Her worst audacities did 
not seem to surprise him : he had thought out 
all that she had felt, and they had reached the 
same conclusion. People grew at varying rates, 
and the yoke that was an easy fit for the one 


might soon become galling to the other. That 
was what divorce was for : the readjustment of 
personal relations. As soon as their necessarily 
transitive nature was recognized they would 
gain in dignity as well as in harmony. There 
would be no further need of the ignoble conces- 
sions and connivances, the perpetual sacrifice of 
personal delicacy and moral pride, by means 
of which imperfect marriages were now held 
together. Each partner to the contract would 
be on his mettle, forced to live up to the 
highest standard of self-development, on pain of 
losing the other's respect and affection. The 
low nature could no longer drag the higher 
down, but must struggle to rise, or remain 
alone on its inferior level. The only necessary 
condition to a harmonious marriage was a frank 
recognition of this truth, and a solemn agree- 
ment between the contracting parties to keep 
faith with themselves, and not to live together 
for a moment after complete accord had ceased 
to exist between them. The new adultery was 
unfaithfulness to self. 

It was, as Westall had just reminded her, on 
this understanding that they had married. The 
ceremony was an unimportant concession to 
social prejudice : now that the door of divorce 
stood open, no marriage need be an imprison- 
ment, and the contract therefore no longer 
involved any diminution of self-respect. The 
nature of their attachment placed them so far 
beyond the reach of such contingencies that it 


was easy to discuss them with an open mind ; 
and Julia's sense of security made her dwell 
with a tender insistence on Westall's promise to 
claim his release when he should cease to love 
her. The exchange of these vows seemed to 
make them, in a sense, champions of the new 
law, pioneers in the forbidden realm of indi- 
vidual freedom : they felt that they had some- 
how achieved beatitude without martyrdom. 

This, as Julia now reviewed the past, she 
perceived to have been her theoretical attitude 
toward marriage. It was unconsciously, insidi- 
ously, that her ten years of happiness with 
Westall had developed another conception of 
the tie ; a reversion, rather, to the old instinct 
of passionate dependency and possessorship that 
now made her blood revolt at the mere hint of 
change. Change ? Renewal ? Was that what 
they had called it, in their foolish jargon ? 
Destruction, extermination rather — this rending 
of a myriad fibres interwoven with another's 
being ! Another ? But he was not other ! 
He and she were one, one in the mystic sense 
which alone gave marriage its significance. The 
new law was not for them, but for the disunited 
creatures forced into a mockery of union. The 
gospel she had felt called on to proclaim had no 
bearing on her own case. . . . She sent for the 
doctor and told him she was sure she needed a 
nerve tonic. 

She took the nerve tonic diligently but it 
failed to quiet her fears. She did not know 


what she feared ; but that made her anxiety the 
more pervasive. Her husband had not reverted 
to the subject of his Saturday talks. He was 
unusually kind and considerate, with a soften- 
ing of his quick manner, a touch of shyness in 
his consideration, that sickened her with new 
fears. She told herself that it was because she 
looked badly — because he knew about the 
doctor and the nerve tonic — that he showed 
this deference to her wishes, this eagerness to 
screen her from moral draughts ; but the ex- 
planation simply cleared the way for fresh 

The week passed slowly, vacantly, like a 
prolonged Sunday. On Saturday the morning 
post brought a note from Mrs. Van Sideren. 
Would dear Julia ask Mr. Westall to come half 
an hour earlier than usual, as there was to be 
some music after his * talk ' ? Westall was just 
leaving for his office when his wife read the 
note. She opened the drawing-room door and 
called him back to deliver the message. 

He glanced at the note and tossed it aside. 
* What a bore ! I shall have to cut my game 
of racquets. Well, I suppose it can't be helped. 
Will you write and say it's all right ? * 

Julia hesitated a moment, her hand stiffening 
on the chair-back against which she leaned. 

* You mean to go on with these talks ? ' she 

* I — why not ? ' he returned ; and this time 
it struck her that his surprise was not quite 


unfeigned. The perception helped her to find 

*You said you had started them with the 
idea of pleasing me * 


* I told you last week that they didn't please 

* Last week ? Oh — — ' He seemed to 
make an effort of memory. *1 thought you 
were nervous then ; you sent for the doctor 
the next day.' 

* It was not the doctor I needed ; it was 
your assurance * 

* My assurance ? ' 

Suddenly she felt the floor fail under her. 
She sank into the chair with a choking throat, 
her words, her reasons slipping away from her 
like straws down a whirling flood. 

* Clement,' she cried, * isn't it enough for you 
to know that I hate it ? ' 

He turned to close the door behind them ; 
then he walked toward her and sat down. 
* What is it that you hate ? ' he asked gently. 

She had made a desperate eflTort to rally her 
routed argument. 

* I can t bear to have you speak as if — as if 
— our marriage — ^were like the other kind — the 
wrong kind. When I heard you there, the 
other afternoon, before all those inquisitive 
gossiping people, proclaiming that husbands and 
wives had a right to leave each other whenever 
they were tired — or had seen some one els e 


Westall sat motionless, his eyes fixed on a 
pattern of the carpet. 

* You have ceased to take this view, then ? ' 
he said as she broke ofF. *You no longer 
believe that husbands and wives are justified in 
separating — under such conditions ? * 

* Under such conditions ? ' she stammered. 
*Yes — I still believe that — but how can we 
judge for others ? What can we know of the 
circumstances ? ' 

He interrupted her. 'I thought it was a 
fundamental article of our creed that the special 
circumstances produced by marriage were not 
to interfere with the full assertion of individual 
liberty.' He paused a moment. *I thought 
that was your reason for leaving Arment.* 

She flushed to the forehead. It was not like 
him to give a personal turn to the argument. 

* It was my reason/ she said simply. 

* Well, then — why do you refuse to recognize 
its validity now i ' 

* I don't — I don't — I only say that one can't 
judge for others.' 

He made an impatient movement. ' This is 
mere hair-splitting. What you mean is that, 
the doctrine having served your purpose when 
you needed it, you now repudiate it.' 

' Well,' she exclaimed, flushing again, * what 
if I do } What does it matter to us ? ' 

Westall rose from his chair. He was ex- 
cessively pale, and stood before his wife with 
something of the formality of a stranger. 


* It matters to me/ he said in a low voice, 
' because I do not repudiate it.' 

*Well ?' 

* And because I had intended to invoke it 
as ' 

He paused and drew his breath deeply. She 
sat silent, almost deafened by her heart-beats. 

* as a complete justification of the course 

I am about to take.' 

Julia remained motionless. *What course 
is that } ' she asked. 

He cleared his throat. ' I mean to claim 
the fulfilment of your promise.' 

For an instant the room wavered and 
darkened ; then she recovered a torturing 
acuteness of vision. Every detail of her sur- 
roundings pressed upon her : the tick of the 
clock, the slant of sunlight on the wall, the 
hardness of the chair-arms that she grasped, 
were a separate wound to each sense. 

* My promise ' she faltered. 

* Your part of our mutual agreement to set 
each other free if one or the other should wish 
to be released.' 

She was silent again. He waited a moment, 
shifting his position nervously ; then he said, 
with a touch of irritability : * You acknowledge 
the agreement ? * 

The question went through her like a shock. 
She lifted her head to it proudly. ' I acknow- 
ledge the agreement,' she said. 

* And — you don't mean to repudiate it } ' 


A log on the hearth fell forward^ and 
mechanically he advanced and pushed it back. 

* No,* she answered slowly, * I don*t mean to 
repudiate it/ 

There was a pause. He remained near the 
hearth, his elbow resting on the mantel-shelf. 
Close to his hand stood a little cup of jade that 
he had given her on one of their wedding 
anniversaries. She wondered vaguely if he 
noticed it. 

* You intend to leave me, then ? ' she said at 

His gesture seemed to deprecate the crude- 
ness of the allusion. 

* To marry some one else ? ' 
Again his eye and hand protested. She 

rose and stood before him. 

* Why should you be afraid to tell me ? Is 
it Una Van Sideren ? * 

He was silent. 

^ I wish you good luck,' she said. 


She looked up, finding herself alone. She did 
not remember when or how he had left the 
room, or how long afterward she had sat there. 
The fire still smouldered on the hearth, but the 
slant of sunlight had left the wall. 

Her first conscious thought was that she had 
not broken her word, that she had fulfilled the 
very letter of their bargain. There had been 
no crying out, no vain appeal to the past, no 
attempt at temporizing or evasion. She had 
marched straight up to the guns. 

Now that it was over, she sickened to find 
herself alive. She looked about her, trying to 
recover her hold on reality. Her identity 
seemed to be slipping from her, as it disappears 
in a physical swoon. * This is my room — this 
is my house,' she heard herself saying. Her 
room ? Her house ? She could almost hear 
the walls laugh back at her. 

She stood up, a weariness in every bone. 
The silence of the room frightened her. She 
remembered, now, having heard the front door 



close a long time ago : the sound suddenly 
re-echoed through her brain. Her husband 
must have left the house, then — her husband? 
She no longer knew in what terms to think : 
the simplest phrases had a poisoned edge. She 
sank back into her chair, overcome by a strange 
weakness. The clock struck ten — it was only 
ten o*clock 1 Suddenly she remembered that 
she had not ordered dinner ... or were they 
dining out that evening ? Dinner — dining out — 
the old meaningless phraseology pursued her ! 
She must try to think of herself as she would 
think of some one else, a some one dissociated 
from all the familiar routine of the past, whose 
wants and habits must gradually be learned, as 
one might spy out the ways of a strange 
animal. . . . 

The clock struck another hour — eleven. 
She stood up again and walked to the door :' 
she thought she would go upstairs to her room. 
Her room ? Again the word derided her. She 
opened the door, crossed the narrow hall, and 
walked up the stairs. As she passed, she noticed 
Westall's sticks and umbrellas : a pair of his 
gloves lay on the hall table. The same stair- 
carpet mounted between the same walls ; the 
same old French print, in its narrow black 
frame, faced her on the landing. This visual 
continuity was intolerable. Within, a gaping 
chasm ; without, the same untroubled and 
familiar surface. She must get away from it 
before she could attempt to think. But, once 


in her room, she sat down on the lounge, a 
stupor creeping over her. . . 

Gradually her vision cleared. A great deal 
had happened in the interval — a wild marching 
and countermarching of emotions, arguments, 
ideas — a fury of insurgent impulses that fell 
back spent upon themselves. She had tried, at 
first, to rally, to organise these chaotic forces. 
There must be help somewhere, if only she 
could master the inner tumult. Life could not 
be broken off short like this, for a whim, a 
fancy ; the law itself would side with her, would 
defend her. The law ? What claim had she 
upon it ? She was the prisoner of her own 
choice : she had been her own legislator, and 
she was the predestined victim of the code she 
had devised. But this was grotesque, intolerable 
— a mad mistake, for which she could not be 
held accountable ! The law she had despised 
was still there, might still be invoked . . . 
invoked, but to what end.^ Could she ask it 
to chain Westall to her side ? She had been 
allowed to go free when she claimed her 
freedom — should she show less magnanimity 
than she had exacted ? Magnanimity ? The 
word lashed her with its irony — one does not 
strike an attitude when one is fighting for life ! 
She would threaten, grovel, cajole . . . she would 
yield anything to keep her hold on happiness. 
Ah, but the difficulty lay deeper ! The law 
could not help her — her own apostasy could not 
help her. She was the victim of the theories 


she renounced. It was as though some giant 
machine of her own making had caught her 
up in its wheels and was grinding her to 
atoms. • . • 

It was afternoon when she found herself 
out-of-doors. She walked with an aimless 
haste, fearing to meet familiar faces. The day 
was radiant, metallic : one of those searching 
American days so calculated to reveal the short- 
comings of our street-cleaning and the excesses 
of our architecture. The streets looked bare 
and hideous ; everything stared and glittered. 
She called a passing hansom, and gave Mrs. Van 
Sideren's address. She did not know what had 
led up to the act ; but she found herself 
suddenly resolved to speak, to cry out a warning. 
It was too late to save herself — but the girl 
might still be told. The hansom rattled up 
Fifth Avenue ; she sat with her eyes fixed, 
avoiding recognition. At the Van Siderens' 
door she sprang out and rang the bell. Action 
had cleared her brain, and she felt calm and self- 
possessed. She knew now exactly what she 
meant to say. 

The ladies were both out . . . the parlour- 
maid stood waiting for a card. Julia, with a 
vague murmur, turned away from the door and 
lingered a moment on the sidewalk. Then she 
remembered that she had not paid the cab- 
driver. She drew a dollar from her purse and 
handed it to him. He touched his hat and 
drove off, leaving her alone in the long empty 


street. She wandered away westward, toward 
strange thoroughfares, where she was not likely 
to meet acquaintances. The feeling of aimless- 
ness had returned. Once she found herself in 
the afternoon torrent of Broadway, swept past 
tawdry shops and flaming theatrical posters, 
with a succession of meaningless faces gliding 
by in the opposite direction. . . . 

A feeling of faintness reminded her that she 
had not eaten since - morning. She turned into 
a side street of shabby houses, with rows of 
ash -barrels behind bent area railings. In a 
basement window she saw the sign Ladies' 
Restaurant: a pie and a dish of doughnuts lay 
against the dusty pane like petrified rood in an 
ethnological museum. She entered, and a 
young woman with a weak mouth and a brazen 
eye cleared a table for her near the window. 
The table was covered with a red and white 
cotton cloth and adorned with a bunch of 
celery in a thick tumbler and a salt-cellar full 
of grayish lumpy salt. Julia ordered tea, and 
sat a long time waiting for it. She was glad to 
be away from the noise and confusion of the 
streets. The low-ceilinged room was empty, 
and two or three waitresses with thin pert faces 
lounged in the background staring at her and 
whispering together. At last the tea was 
brought in a discoloured metal tea pot. Julia 
poured a cup full and drank it hastily. It was 
black and bitter, but it flowed through her 
veins like an elixir. She was almost dizzy with 


exhilaration. Oh, how tired, how unutterably 
tired she had been ! 

She drank a second cup, blacker and bitterer, 
and now her mind was once more working 
clearly. She felt as vigorous, as decisive, as 
when she had stood on the Van Siderens' door- 
step — but the wish to return there had subsided. 
She saw now the futility of such an attempt — 
the humiliation to which it might have exposed 
her. . . . The pity of it was that she did not 
know what to do next. The short winter day 
was fading, and she realized that she could not 
remdn much longer in the restaurant without 
attracting notice. She paid for her tea and 
went out into the street. The lamps were 
alight, and here and there a basement shop cast 
an oblong of gas-light across the fissured pave- 
ment. In the dusk there was something sinister 
about the aspect of the street, and she hastened 
back toward Fifth Avenue. She was not used 
to being out alone at that hour. 

At the corner of Fifth Avenue she paused 
and stood watching the stream of carriages. 
At last a policeman caught sight of her and 
signed to her that he would take her across. 
She had not meant to cross the street, but she 
obeyed automatically, and presently found her- 
self on the farther corner. There she paused 
again for a moment ; but she fancied the 
policeman was watching her, and this sent her 
hastening down the nearest side street. . . . 
After that she walked a long time, vaguely. . . . 


Night had fallen, and now and then, through 
the windows of a passing carriage, she caught 
the expanse of an evening waistcoat or the 
shimmer of an opera cloak. . . . 

Suddenly she found herself in a familiar 
street. She stood still a moment, breathing 
quickly. She had turned the corner without 
noticing whither it led ; but now, a few yards 
ahead of her, she saw the house in which she 
had once lived — her first husband's house. 
The blinds were drawn, and only a faint trans- 
lucence marked the windows and the transom 
above the door. As she stood there she heard 
a step behind her, and a man walked by in the 
direction of the house. He walked slowly, 
with a heavy middle-aged gait, his head simk a 
little between the shoulders, the red crease of 
his neck visible above the fur collar of his 
overcoat. He crossed the street, went up the 
steps of the house, drew forth a latch-key, and 
let himself in. . . . 

There was no one else in sight. Julia 
leaned for a long time against the area-rail at the 
corner, her eyes fixed on the front of the house. 
The feeling of physical weariness had returned,, 
but the strong tea still throbbed in her veins 
and lit her brain with an unnatural clearness. 
Presently she heard another step draw near, and 
moving quickly away, she too crossed the street 
and mounted the steps of the house. The 
impulse which had carried her there prolonged 
itself in a quick pressure of the electric bell — 


then she felt suddenly weak and tremulous, and 
grasped the balustrade for support. The door 
opened and a young footman with a fresh 
inexperienced face stood on the threshold. 
Julia knew in an instant that he would admit 

* I saw Mr. Arment going in just now/ she 
said. *WiIl you ask him to see me for a 
moment ? ' 

The footman hesitated. *I think Mr. 
Arment has gone up to dress for dinner, 

Julia advanced into the haU. * I am sure he 
will see me — I will not detain him long/ she 
said. She spoke quietly, authoritatively, in the 
tone which a good servant does not mistake. 
The footman had his hand on the drawing-room 

^I ^11 tell him, madam. What name, 
please ? ' 

Julia trembled : she had not thought of that. 
' Merely say a lady,* she returned carelessly. 

The footman wavered and she fancied herself 
lost ; but at that instant the door opened from 
within and John Arment stepped into the hall. 
He drew back sharply as he saw her, his florid 
face turning sallow with the shock; then the 
blood poured back to it, swelling the veins on 
his temples and reddening the lobes of his thick 

It was long since Julia had seen him, and 
she was startled at the change in his appearance. 


He had thickened, coarsened, settled down into 
the enclosing flesh. But she noted this in- 
sensibly : her one conscious thought was that, 
now she was face to face with him, she must 
not let him escape till he had heard her. Every 
pulse in her body throbbed with the urgency of 
her message. 

She went up to him as he drew back. * I 
must speak to you,' she said. 

Arment hesitated, red and stammering. Julia 
glanced at the footman, and her look acted as a 
warning. The instinctive shrinking from a 
' scene ' predominated over every other impulse, 
and Arment said slowly : * Will you come this 
way ? ' 

He followed her into the drawing-room and 
closed the door. Julia, as she advanced, was 
vaguely aware that the room at least was un- 
changed : time had not mitigated its horrors. 
The contadina still lurched from the chimney- 
breast, and the Greek slave obstructed the 
threshold of the inner room. The place was 
alive with memories : they started out from 
every fold of the yellow satin curtains and 
glided between the angles of the rosewood 
furniture. But while some subordinate agency 
was carrying these impressions to her brain, her 
whole conscious eflfbrt was centred in the act of 
dominating Arment's will. The fear that he 
would refuse to hear her mounted like fever to 
her brain. She felt her purpose melt before it, 
words and arguments running into each other 


in the heat of her longing. For a moment her 
voice failed her, and she imagined herself thrust 
out before she could speak ; but as she was 
struggling for a word, Arment pushed a chair 
forward, and said quietly : * You are not well.' 

The sound of his voice steadied her. It was 
neither kind nor unkind — a voice that sus- 
pended judgment, rather, awaidng unforeseen 
developments. She supported herself against 
the back of the chair and drew a deep breath. 

* Shall I send for something ? ' he continued, 
with a cold embarrassed politeness. 

Julia raised an entreating hand. ^No-^-no 
— ^thank you. I am quite well.' 

He paused midway toward the bell, and 
turned on her. * Then may I ask ? ' 

*Yes,' she interrupted him. *I came here 
because I wanted to see you. There is some- 
thing I must tell you.' 

Arment continued to scrutinize her. ' I am 
surprised at that,' he said. *I should have 
supposed that any communication you may 
wish to make coidd have been made through 
our lawyers.' 

* Our lawyers ! ' She burst into a little 
laugh. *I don't think they could help me — 
this time.' 

Arment's face took on a barricaded look. 4f 
there is any question of help — of course ' 

It struck her, whimsically, that she had seen 
that look when some shabby devil called with 
a subscription-book. Perhaps he thought she 


wanted him to put his name down for so much 
in sympathy — or even in money. . . . The 
thought made her laugh again. She saw his 
look change slowly to perplexity. All his facial 
changes were slow, and she remembered, sud- 
denly, how it had once diverted her to shift 
that lumbering scenery with a word. For the 
first time it struck her that she had been cruel. 
* There is a question of help,' she said in a softer 
key ; * you can help me ; but only by listening. 
... I want to tell you something. . . .' 

Arment's resistance was not yielding. * Would 
it not be easier to— write ? ' he suggested. 

She shook her head. * There is no time to 
write . . . and it won't take long.' She raised 
her head and their eyes met. * My husband has 
left me,' she said. 

* Westall ? ' he stammered, reddening 


*Yes. This morning. Just as I left you. 
Because he was tired of me.' 

The words, uttered scarcely above a whisper, 
seemed to dilate to the limit of the room. 
Arment looked toward the door ; then his 
embarrassed glance returned to Julia. 

* I am very sorry,* he said awkwardly. 

* Thank you,' she murmured. 

* But I don't see ' 

* No — ^but you will — in a moment. Won't 
you listen to me ? Please ! ' Instinctively she 
had shifted her position, putting herself between 
him and the door. * It happened this morning,' 


she went on in short breathless phrases. *I 
never suspected anything — ^I thought we were 
— ^perfectly happy. . . . Suddenly he told me 
he was tired of me . . . there is a girl he likes 
better. . . . He has gone to her. . . .' As she 
spoke, the lurking anguish rose upon her, pos- 
sessing her once more to the exclusion of every 
other emotion. Her eyes ached, her throat 
swelled with it, and two painful tears ran down 
her face. 

Arment*s constraint was increasing visibly. 
*This — this is very imfortunate,' he began. 

* But I should say the law * 

*The law?' she echoed ironically. *When 
he asks for his freedom ? ' 

* You are not obliged to give it.' 

* You were not obliged to give me mine — 
but you did.* 

He made a protesting gesture. 

* You saw that the law couldn't help you — 
didn't you ? ' she went on. * That is what I 
see now. The law represents material rights — 
it can't go beyond. If we don't recognize an 
inner law ... the obligation that love creates 
. . . being loved as well as loving . . . there 
is nothing to prevent our spreading ruin un- 
hindered ... is there ? ' She raised her head 
plaintively, with the look of a bewildered child. 

* That is what I see now . . . what I wanted to 
tell you. He leaves me because he's tired . . . 
but / was not tired ; and I don't understand 
why he is. That's the dreadful part of it — ^the 


not understanding : I hadn't realized what it 
meant. But I've been thinking of it all day, 
and things have come back to me — things I 
hadn't noticed . . . when you and I . . .' She 
moved closer to him, and fixed her eyes on his 
with the gaze which tries to reach beyond words. 
* I see now that you didn't understand — did 
you ? ' 

Their eyes met in a sudden shock of com- 
prehension : a veil seemed to be lifted between 
them. Arment's lip trembled. 

^ No,' he said, * I didn't understand.' 

She gave a little cry, almost of triumph. * I 
knew it! I knew it! You wondered — you 
tried to tell me — but no words came. . . . You 
saw your life falling in ruins . . . the world 
slipping from you . . . and you couldn't speak 
or move I ' 

She sank down on the chair against which 
she had been leaning. ' Now I know — now I 
know,' she repeated. 

* I am very sorry for you,' she heard Arment 

She looked up quickly. ' That's not what I 
came for. I don't want you to be sorry. I 
came to ask you to forgive me . . . for not 
understanding that you didn't understand. . . . 
That's all I wanted to say.' She rose with a 
vague sense that the end had come, and put out 
a groping hand toward the door. 

Arment stood motionless. She turned to 
him with a faint smile. 


* You forgive me ? * 

* There is nothing to forgive- 

* Then will you shake hands for good-bye ? ' 
She felt his hand in hers : it was nerveless, 

^Good-bye,' she repeated. *I understand 

She opened the door and passed out into the 
hall. As she did so, Arment took an impulsive 
step forward ; but just then the footman, who 
was evidently alive to his obligations, advanced 
from the background to let her out. She heard 
Arment fall back. The footman threw open 
the door, and she found herself outside in the 





Colonel Alingdon died in Florence in 1890. 

For many years he had lived withdrawn 
from the world in which he had once played so 
active and even turbulent a part. The study 
of Tuscan art was his only pursuit, and it was 
to help him in the classification of his notes and 
documents that I was first called to his villa. 
Colonel Alingdon had then the look of a very 
old man, though his age can hardly have ex- 
ceeded seventy. He was small and bent, with 
a finely wrinkled face which still wore the tan 
of youthful exposure. But for this dusky red- 
ness it would have been hard to reconstruct 
from the shrunken recluse, with his low fas- 
tidious voice and carefully tended hands, an 
image of that young knight of adventure whose 
sword had been at the service of every uprising 
which stirred the uneasy soil of Italy in the first 
half of the nineteenth century. 

Though I was more of a proficient in Colonel 
Alingdon*s later than his earlier pursuits, the 
thought of his soldiering days was always com- 
ing between me and the pacific work of his old 



age. As we sat collatinc; papers and comparing 
photographs, I had the reeling that this dry and 
quiet old man had seen even stranger things 
than people said : that he knew more of the 
inner history of Europe than half the diploma- 
tists of his day. 

I was not alone in this conviction ; and the 
friend who had engaged me for Colonel Aling- 
don had appended to his instructions the in- 
junction to 'get him to talk/ But this was 
what no one could do. Colonel Alingdon was 
ready to discuss by the hour the date of a 
Giottesque triptvch, or the attribution of a dis- 
puted master ; but on the history of his early 
life he was habitually silent. 

It was perhaps because I recognized this 
silence and respected it that it afterward came 
to be broken for me. Or it was perhaps merely 
because, as the failure of Colonel Alingdon's 
sight cut him off from his work, he felt the 
natural inclination of age to revert from the 
empty present to the crowded past. For one 
cause or another he did talk to me in the last 
year of his life ; and I felt myself mingled, to 
an extent inconceivable to the mere reader of 
history, with the passionate scenes of the Italian 
struggle for liberty. Colonel Alingdon had 
been mixed with it in all its phases : he had 
known the last Carbonari and the Young Italy 
of Mazzini ; he had been in Perugia when the 
mercenaries of a liberal Pope slaughtered women 
and children in the streets ; he had been in 


Sicily with the Thousand, and in Milan during 
the Cinque Giomate. 

* They say the Italians didn't know how to 
fight,' he said one day, musingly — * that the 
French had to come down and do their work 
for them. People forget how long it was since 
they had had any fighting to do. But they 
hadn't forgotten how to suffer and hold their 
tongues ; how to die and take their secrets with 
them. The Italian war of independence was 
really carried on underground : it was one of 
those awful silent struggles which are so much 
more terrible than the roar of a battle. It's a 
deuced sight easier to charge with your regiment 
than to lie rotting in an Austrian prison and 
know that if you give up the name of a friend 
or two you can go back scot-free to your wife 
and children. And thousands and thousands of 
Italians had the choice given them — and hardly 
one went back.' 

He sat silent, his meditative finger-tips laid 
together, his eyes fixed on the past which was 
now the only thing clearly visible to them. 

* And the women } ' I said. * Were they as 
brave as the men ? ' 

I had not spoken quite at random. I had 
always heard that there had been as much of 
love as of war in Colonel Alingdon's early 
career, and I hoped that my question might 
give a personal turn to his reminiscences. 

* The women ? ' he repeated. * They were 
braver — for they had more to bear and less to 


do. Italy could never have been saved without 

His eye had kindled and I detected in it the 
reflection of some vivid memory. It was then 
that I asked him what was the bravest thing he 
had ever known of a woman's doing. 

The question was such a vague one that I 
hardly knew why I had put it, but to my sur- 
prise he answered almost at once, as though I 
had touched on a subject of frequent meditation. 

*The bravest thing I ever saw done by a 
woman/ he said, * was brought about by an act 
of my own — and one of which I am not parti- 
cularly proud. For that reason I have never 
spoken of it before. There was a time when I 
didn't even care to think of it — ^but all that is 
past now. She died years ago, and so did the 
Jack Alingdon she knew, and in telling you the 
story I am no more than the mouthpiece of an 
old tradition which some ancestor might have 
handed down to me.' 

He leaned back, his dear blind gaze fixed 
smilingly on me, and I had the feeling that, in 
groping through the labyrinth of his young 
adventures, I had come unawares upon their 
central point. 


(colonel alingdon's story) 

When I was in Milan in 'forty-seven an un- 
lucky thing happened to me. 

I had been sent there to look over the ground 
by some of my Italian friends in England. As 
an English officer I had no difficulty in getting 
into Milanese society, for England had for 
years been the refuge of the Italian fugitives, 
and I was known to be working in their in- 
terests. It was just the kind of job I liked, 
and I never enjoyed life more than I did in 
those days. There was a great deal going on 
— good music, balls and theatres. Milan kept 
up her gaiety to the last. The English were 
shocked by the insouciance of a race who could 
dance under the very nose of the usurper ; but 
those who understood the situation knew that 
Milan was playing Brutus, and playing it un- 
commonly well. 

I was in the thick of it all — it was just the 
atmosphere to suit a young fellow of nine-and- 
twenty, with a healthy pas^pn for waltzing and 


240 THE LETTER ii 

fighting. But, as I said, an unlucky thing 
happened to me. I was fool enough to fall in 
love with Donna Candida Falco. You have 
heard of her, of course : you know the share 
she had in the great work. In a different way 
she was what the terrible Princess Belgioioso 
had been to an earlier generation. But Donna 
Candida was not terril^e. She was quiet, dis- 
creet and charming. When I knew her she 
was a widow of thirty, her husband, Andrea 
Falco, having died ten years previously, soon 
after their marriage. The marriage had been 
notoriously unhappy, and his death was a release 
to Donna Candick. Her family were of 
Modena, but they had come to live in Milan 
soon after the execution of Ciro Menotti and 
his companions. You remember the details of 
that business f The Duke of Modena, one of 
the most adroit villains in Europe, had been 
bitten with the hope of uniting the Italian states 
under his rule. It was a vision of Italian libera- 
tion — of a sort. A few madmen were dazzled 
by it, and Ciro Menotti was one of them. You 
know the end. The Duke of Modena, who 
had counted on Louis Philippe's backing, found 
that that astute sovereign had betrayed him to 
Austria. Instantly, he saw that his first business 
was to get rid of the conspirators he had created. 
There was nothing easier than for a Hapsburg 
Este to turn on a friend. Ciro Menotti had 
staked his life for the Duke — and the Duke 
took it. You may remember that,^ on the night 


when seven hundred men and a cannon attacked 
Menotti's house, the Duke was seen looking 
on at the slaughter from an arcade across the 

Well, among the lesser fry taken that night 
was a lad of eighteen, Emilio Verna, who was 
the only brother of Donna Candida. The 
Verna family was one of the most respected in 
Modena. It consisted, at that time, of the 
mother. Countess Verna, of young Emilio and 
his sister. Count Verna had been in Spielberg 
in the twenties. He never recovered from 
his sufferings there, and died in exile, without 
seeing his wife and children again. Countess 
Verna had been an ardent patriot in her youth, 
but the failure of the first attempts against 
Austria had discouraged her. She thought that 
in losing her husband she had sacrificed enough 
for her country, and her one idea was to keep 
Emilio on good terms with the government. 
But the Verna blood was not tractable, and his 
father's death was not likely to make Emilio a 
good subject of the Estes. Not that he had as 
yet taken any active share in the work of the 
conspirators : he simply hadn't had time. At 
his trial there was nothing to show that he had 
been in Menotti's confidence ; but he had been 
seen once or twice coming out of what the ducal 
police called * suspicious ' houses, and in his 
desk were found some verses to Italy. That 
was enough to hang a man in Modena, and 
Emilio Verna was hanged. 

242 THE LETTER ii 

The Countess never recovered from the 
blow. The circumstances of her son's death 
were too abominable, too imendurable. If he 
had risked his life in the conspiracy, she might 
have been reconciled to his losing it. But he 
was a mere child, who had sat at home, chafing 
but powerless, while his seniors plotted and 
fought. He had been sacrificed to the Duke's 
insane fear, to his savage greed for victims, and 
the Coimtess Verna was not to be consoled. 

As soon as possible, the mother and daughter 
left Modena for Milan. There they lived in 
seclusion till Candida's marriage. During her 
girlhood she had had to accept her mother's 
view of life : to shut herself up in the tomb 
in which the poor woman brooded over her 
martyrs. But that was not the girl's way of 
honouring the dead. At the moment when the 
first shot was fired on Menotti's house she had 
been reading Petrarch's Ode to the Lords of 
Italy, and the lines 

Pantico valor 
Ni PitaUci cor non e ancor morto 

had lodged like a bullet in her brain. From 
the day of her marriage she began to take a 
share in the silent work which was going on 
throughout Italy. Milan was at that time the 
centre of the movement, and Candida Falco 
threw herself into it with all the passion which 
her unhappy marriage left unsatisfied. At first 
she had to act with great reserve, for her husband 


was a prudent man, who did not cai*e to have 
his habits disturbed by political complications ; 
but after his death there was nothing to restrain 
her, except the exquisite tact which enabled her 
to work night and day in the Italian cause with- 
out giving the Austrian authorities a pretext for 

When I first knew Donna Candida, her 
mother was still living : a tragic woman, pre- 
maturely bowed, like an image of death in the 
background of the daughter's brilliant life. 
The Countess, since her son's death, had be- 
come a patriot again, though in a narrower 
sense than Candida. The mother's first thought 
was that her dead must be avenged, the daughter's 
that Italy must be saved ; but from different 
motives they worked for the same end. Candida 
felt for the Countess that protecting tenderness 
with which Italian children so often regard their 
parents, a feeling heightened by the reverence 
which the mother's sufferings inspired. Countess 
Verna, as the wife and mother of martyrs, had 
done what Candida longed to do : she had given 
her utmost to Italy. There must have been 
moments when the self-absorption of her grief 
chilled her daughter's ardent spirit ; but Candida 
revered in her mother the image of their afflicted 

*It was too terrible,' she said, speaking of 
what the Countess had suffered after Emilio's 
death. *A11 the circumstances were too un- 
merciful. It seemed as if God had turned His 

244 THE LETTER ii 

face from my mother ; as if she had been 
singled out to suffer more than any of the 
others. All the other families received some 
message or token of farewell from the prisoners. 
One of them bribed the gaoler to carry a letter 
— another sent a lock of hair by the chaplain. 
But Emilio made no sign, sent no word. My 
mother felt as though he had turned his back 
on us. She used to sit for hours, saying again 
and again, " Why was he the only one to forget 
his mother ? " I tried to comfort her, but it 
was useless : she had suffered too much. Now 
I never reason with her ; I listen, and let her 
ease her poor heart. Do you know, she still 
asks me sometimes if I think he may have left 
a letter — if there is no way of finding out if he 
left one ? She forgets that I have tried again 
and again : that I have sent bribes and messages 
to the gaoler, the chaplain, to every one who 
came near him. The answer is always the same 
— no one has ever heard of a letter. I suppose 
the poor boy was stunned, and did not think 
of writing. Who knows what was passing 
through his poor bewildered brain ? But it 
would have been a great help to my mother to 
have a word from him. If I had known how to 
imitate his writing I should have forged a letter.' 
I knew enough of the Italians to understand 
how her boy*s silence must have aggravated the 
Countess's grief. Precious as a message from a 
dying son would be to any mother, such signs 
of tenderness have to the Italians a peculiar 


significance. The Latin race is rhetorical : it . 
possesses the gift of death-bed eloquence, the { 
knack of saying the effective thing on momen- 1 
tous occasions. The letters which the Italian^ 
patriots sent home from their prisons or from 
the scaffold are not the halting farewells that 
anguish would have wrung from a less expres- 
sive race : they are veritable * compositions/ 
saved from affectation only by the fact that 
fluency and sonority are a part of the Latin 
inheritance. Such letters, passed from hand to 
hand among the bereaved families, were not 
only a comfort to the survivors but an incentive 
to fresh sacrifices. They were the * seed of the 
martyrs ' with which Italy was being sown ; and 
I knew what it meant to the Countess Verna 
to have no such treasure in her bosom, to sit 
silent while other mothers quoted their sons' 
last words. 

I said just now that it was an unlucky day 
for me when I fell in love with Donna Candida ; 
and no doubt you have guessed the reason. 
She was in love with some one else. It was the 
old situation of Heine's song. That other loved 
another — loved Italy, and with an undivided 
passion. His name was Fernando Briga, and at 
that time he was one of the foremost liberals 
in Italy. He came of a middle-class Modenese 
family. His father was a doctor, a prudent 
man, engrossed in his profession and unwilling 
to compromise it by meddling in politics. His 
irreproachable attitude won the confidence of 

246 THE LETTER ii 

the government, and the Duke conferred on 
him the sinister office of physician to the prisons 
of Modena. It was this Briga who attended 
Emilio Falco, and several of the other prisoners 
who were executed at the same time. 

Under shelter of his father's loyalty young 
Fernando conspired in safety. He was study- 
ing medicine, and every one supposed him to be 
absorbed in his work ; but as a matter of fact 
he was fast ripening into one of Mazzini's ablest 
lieutenants. His career belongs to history, so 
I need not enlarge on it here. In 1 847 he was 
in Milan, and had become one of the leading 
figures in the liberal group which was working 
for a coalition with Piedmont. Like all the 
ablest men of his day, he had cast off Mazziniism 
and pinned his faith to the house of Savoy. 
The Austrian government had an eye on him, 
but he had inherited his father's prudence, 
though he used it for nobler ends, and his dis- 
cretion enabled him to do far more for the 
cause than a dozen enthusiasts could have 
accomplished. No one imderstood this better 
than Donna Candida. She had a share of his 
caution, and he trusted her with secrets which 
he would not have confided to many men. Her 
drawing-room was the centre of the Piedmon- 
tese party, yet so clever was she in averting 
suspicion that more than one hunted conspirator 
hid in her house, and was helped across the Alps 
by her agents. 

Briga relied on her as he did on no one else ; 


but he did not love her, and she knew it. Still, 
she was young, she was handsome, and he loved 
no one else : how could she give up hoping ? 
From her intimate friends she made no secret 
of her feelings : Italian women are not reticent 
in such matters, and Donna Candida was proud 
of loving a hero. You will see at once that 
I had no chance ; but if she could not give up 
hope, neither could I. Perhaps in her desire to 
secure my services for the cause she may have 
shown herself overkind : or perhaps I was still 
young enough to set down to my own charms 
a success due to quite difierent causes. At any 
rate, I persuaded myself that if I could manage 
to do something conspicuous for Italy I might 
yet make her care for me. With such an 
incentive you will not wonder that I worked 
hard ; but though Donna Candida was full of 
gratitude she continued to adore my rival. 

One day we had a hot scene. I began, I 
believe, by reproaching her with having led me 
on ; and when she defended ' herself, I retaliated 
by taunting her with Briga^s indifference. She 
grew pale at that, and said it was enough to 
love a hero, even without hope of return ; and 
as she said it she herself looked so heroic, so 
radiant, so unattainably the woman I wanted, 
that a sneer may have escaped me : — ^was she so 
sure then that Briga was a hero ? I remember 
her proud silence and our wretched parting. I 
went away feeling that at last I had really lost her ; 
and the thought made me savage and vindictive. 

248 THE LETTER ii 

Soon after, as it happened, came the Five 
DaySy and Milan was free. I caught a distant 
glimpse of Donna Candida in the hospital to 
which I was carried after the fight ; but my 
wound was a slight one and in twenty -four 
hours I was about again on crutches. I hoped 
she might send for me, but she did not, and I 
was too sulky to make the first advance. A 
day or two later I heard there had been a 
commotion in Modena, and not being in fight- 
ing trim I got leave to go over there with one 
or two men whom the Modenese liberals had 
called in to help them. When we arrived the 
precious Duke had been swept out and a pro- 
visional government set up. One of my com- 
panions, who was a Modenese, was made a 
member, and knowing that I wanted something 
to do, he commissioned me to look up some 
papers in the ducal archives. It was fascinating 
work, for in the pursuit of my documents I 
uncovered the hidden springs of his late High- 
nesses paternal administration. The principal 
papers relative to the civil and criminal ad- 
ministration of Modena have since been pub- 
lished, and the world knows how that estimable 
sovereign cared for the material and spiritual 
welfare of his subjects. 

Well — in the course of my search, I came 
across a file of old papers marked : * Taken 
from political prisoners, a.d. 1831.* It was 
the year of Menotti's conspiracy, and every- 
thing connected with that date was thrilling. 


I loosened the band and ran over the letters. 
Suddenly I came across one which was docketed : 
* Given by Doctor Briga's son to the warder of 
His Highness's prisons.' Doctor Brigas son ? 
That could be no other than Fernando : I knew 
he was an only child. But how came such a 
paper into his hands, and how had it passed 
from them into those of the Duke's warder? 
My own hands shook as I opened the letter — 
I felt the man suddenly in my power. 

Then I began to read. * My adored mother, 
even in this lowest circle of hell all hearts are 
not closed to pity, and I have been given the 
hope that these last words of farewell may reach 
you. . . .' My eyes ran on over pages of 
plaintive rhetoric. * Embrace for me my adored 
Candida ... let her never forget the cause for 
which her father and brother perished ... let 
her keep alive in her breast the thought of 
Spielberg and Reggio. Do not grieve that I 
die so young . . . though not with those heroes 
in deed I was with them in spirit, and am 
worthy to be enrolled in the sacred phalanx 
. . .' and so on. Before I reached the signa- 
ture I knew the letter was from Emilio Verna. 

I put it in my pocket, finished my work and 
started immediately for Milan. I didn't quite 
know what I meant to do — my head was in a 
whirl. I saw at once what must have happened. 
Fernando Briga, then a lad of fifteen or sixteen, 
had attended his father in prison during Emilio 
Verna's last hours, and the latter, perhaps aware 

250 THE LETTER ii 

of the lad*s liberal sympathies, had found an 
opportunity of giving him the letter. But why 
had Briga given it up to the warder? That 
was the puzzling question. The docket said : 
* Given by Doctor Briga's son ' — but it might 
mean * taken from.' Fernando might have 
been seen to receive the letter and might have 
been searched on leaving the prison. But that 
would not account for his silence afterward. 
How was it that, if he knew of the letter, he 
had never told Emilio's family of it ? There 
was only one explanation. If the letter had 
been taken from him by force he would have 
had no reason for conceding its existence ; and 
his silence was clear proof that he had given it 
up voluntarily, no doubt in the hope of standing 
well with the authorities. But then he was a 
traitor and a coward ; the patriot of 'forty-eight 
had begun life as an informer 1 But does 
innate character ever change so radically that 
the lad who has committed a base act at fifteen 
may grow up into an honourable man ? A 
good man may be corrupted by life, but can 
the years turn a born sneak into a hero ? 

You may fancy how I answered my own 
questions* ... If Briga had been false and 
cowardly then, was he not sure to be false and 
cowardly still .^ In those days there were 
traitors under every coat, and more than one 
brave fellow had been sold to the police by his 
best friend. . . . You will say that Briga's 
record was unblemished, that he had exposed 


himself to danger too frequently, had stood by 
his friends too steadfastly, to permit of a rational 
doubt of his good faith. So reason might have 
told me in a calmer moment, but she was not 
allowed to make herself heard just then. I was 
young, I was angry, I chose to think I had 
been unfairly treated, and perhaps at my rival's 
instigation. It was not unlikely that Briga 
knew of my love for Donna Candida, and had 
encouraged her to use it in the good cause. 
Was she not always at his bidding ? My blood 
boiled at the thought, and reaching Milan in a 
rage I went straight to Donna Candida. 

I had measured the exact force of the blow I 
was going to deal. The triumph of the liberals 
in Modena had revived public interest in the 
unsuccessful struggle of their predecessors, the 
men who, sixteen years earlier, had paid for the 
same attempt with their lives. The victors of 
'forty-eight wished to honour the vanquished of 
'thirty-two. All the families exiled by the 
ducal government were hastening back to re- 
cover possession of their confiscated property 
and of the graves of their dead. Already it 
had been decided to raise a monument to 
Menotti and his companions. There were to 
be speeches, garlands, a public holiday : the 
thrill of the commemoration would run through 
Europe. You see what it would have meant to 
the poor Countess to appear on the scene with 
her boy's letter in her hand ; and you see also 
what the memorandum on the back of the letter 


would have meant to Donna Guidida. Poor 
EmIlio*8 farewell would be published in all the 
journals of Europe : the finding of the letter 
would be on every one's lips. And how con- 
ceal those fatal words on the back? At the 
moment, it seemed to me that fortune could 
not have given me a handsomer chance of 
destroying my rival than in letting me find the 
letter which he stood convicted of having 

My sentiment was perhaps not a strictly 
honourable one ; yet what could I do but give 
the letter to Donna Candida? To keep it 
back was out of the question ; and with 
the best will in the world I could not have 
erased Briga*s name from the back. The 
mistake I made was in thinking it lucky that 
the paper had fallen into my hands. 

Donna Candida was alone when I entered. 
We had parted in anger, but she held out her 
hand with a smile of pardon, and asked what 
news I brought from Modena. The smile 
exasperated me : I felt as though she were 
trying to get me into her power again. 

* I bring you a letter from your brother,' I 
said, and handed it to her. I had purposely 
turned the superscription downward, so that 
she should not see it. 

She uttered an incredulous cry and tore the 
letter open. A light struck up from it into 
her face as she read — a radiance that smote me 
to the soul. For a moment I longed to snatch 


the paper from her and efFace the name on the 
back. It hurt me to think how short-lived her 
happiness must be. 

Then she did a fatal thing. She came up to 
me, caught my two hands and kissed them. 

* Oh, thank you — bless you a thousand times ! 
He died thinking of us — ^he died loving Italy ! * 

I put her from me gently : it was not the 
kiss I wanted, and the touch of her lips 
hardened me. 

She shone on me through her happy tears. 
*What happiness — ^what consolation you have 
brought my poor mother ! This will take the 
bitterness from her grief. And that it should 
come to her now ! Do you know, she had a 
presentiment of it ? When we heard of the 
Duke*s flight her first word was : " Now we 
may find Emilio's letter." At heart she was 
always sure that he had written — I suppose 
some blessed instinct told her so.' She dropped 
her face on her hands, and I saw her tears fall 
on the wretched letter. 

In a moment she looked up again, with eyes 
that blessed and trusted me. * Tell me where 
you found it,' she said. 

I told her. 

* Oh, the savages : They took it from 
him ' 

My opportunity had come. * No,' I said, 

* it appears they did not take it from him.* 

* Then how ' 

I waited a moment. * The letter,' I said, 

254 THE LETTER ii 

looking full at her, ^ was given up to the warder 
of the prison by the son of Doctor Briga.* 

She stared, repeating the words slowly. 
* The son of Doctor Briga ? But that is — 
Fernando,' she said. 

^ I have always understood,' I replied, ^ that 
your friend was an only son.' 

I had expected an outcry of horror ; if she 
had uttered it I could have forgiven her any- 
thing. But I heard, instead, an incredulous 
exclamation : my statement was really too pre- 
posterous! I saw that her mind had flashed 
back to our last talk, and that she charged 
me with something too nearly true to be en- 

* My brother's letter ? Given to the prison 
warder by Fernando Briga ? My dear Captain 
Alingdon — on what authority do you expect me 
to believe such a tale ? ' 

Her incredulity had in it an evident implica- 
tion of bad faith, and I was stung to a quick 

* If you will turn over the letter you will 

She continued to gaze at me a moment ; then 
she obeyed. I don't think I ever admired her 
more than I did then. As she read the name a 
tremor crossed her face ; and that was all. Her 
mind must have reached out instantly to the 
farthest consequences of the discovery, but the 
long habit or self-command enabled her to 
steady her muscles at once. If I had not been 


on the alert I should have seen no hint of 

For a while she looked fixedly at the back of 
the letter ; then she raised her eyes to mine. 

* Can you tell me who wrote this ? ' she 

Her composure irritated me. She had rallied 
all her forces to Briga's defence, and I felt as 
though my triumph were slipping from me. 

* Probably one of the clerks of the archives,* 
I answered. * It is written in the same hand as 
all the other memoranda relating to the political 
prisoners of that year.' 

* But it is a lie ! ' she exclaimed. * He was 
never admitted to the prisons.' 

* Are you sure ? ' 

* How should he have been ? ' 

* He might have gone as his father's assistant.' 

* But if he had seen my poor brother he 
would have told me long ago.' 

* Not if he had really given up this letter,' I 

I supposed her quick intelligence had seized 
this from the first ; but I saw now that it came 
to her as a shock. She stood motionless, clench* 
ing the letter in her hands, and I could guess 
the rapid travel of her thoughts. 

Suddenly she came up to me. * Captain 
Alingdon,' she said, * you have been a good 
friend of mine, though I think you have not 
liked me lately. But whether you like me or 
not, I know you will not deceive me. On your 

256 THE LETTER 11 

honour, do you think this memorandum may 
have been written later than the letter ? ' 

I hesitated. If she had cried out once against 
Briga I should have wished myself out of the 
business ; but she was too sure of him. ^ 

* On my honour,' I said, ^ I think it hardly 
possible. The ink has faded to the same 

She made a rapid comparison and folded the 
letter with a gesture of assent. 

* It may have been written by an enemy,* I 
went on, wishing to clear myself of any appear- 
ance of malice. 

She shook her head. ^ He was barely fifteen 
— ^and his father was on the side of the govern- 
ment. Besides, this would have served him 
with the government, and the liberals would 
never have known of it.* 

This was unanswerable — ^and still not a word 
of revolt against the man whose condemnation 
she was pronouncing ! 

* Then * I said with a vague gesture. 

She caught me up. * Then ? ' 

* You have answered my objections,* I re- 

* Your objections ? * 

* To thinking that Signor Briga could have 
begun his career as a patriot by betraying a 

I had brought her to the test at last, but my 
eyes shrank from her face as I spoke. There 
was a dead silence, which I broke by adding 


lamely : * But no doubt Signor Briga could 

She lifted her head, and I saw that my 
triumph was to be short. She stood erect, a few 
paces from me, resting her hand on a table, but 
not for support. 

* Of course he can explain,' she said ; * do 
you suppose I ever doubted it ? But ' — ^she 
paused a moment, fronting me nobly — * he need 
not, for I understand it all now.' 

* Ah,' I murmured with a last flicker of irony. 
^ I understand,' she repeated. It was she, 

now, who sought my eyes and held them. * It 
is quite simple — he could not have done other- 

This was a little too oracular to be received 
with equanimity. I suppose I smiled. 

* He could not have done otherwise,' she 
repeated with tranquil emphasis. * He merely 
did what is every Italian's duty — he put Italy 
before himself and his friends.' She waited a 
moment, and then went on with growing passion : 
* Surely you must see what I mean ? He was 
evidently in the prison with his father at the 
time of my poor brother's death. Emilio per- 
haps guessed that he was a friend— or perhaps 
appealed to him because he was young and 
looked kind. But don't you see how dangerous 
it would have been for Briga to bring this letter 
to us, or even to hide it in his father's house ? 
It is true that he was not yet suspected of 
liberalism, but he was already connected with 


2s8 THE LETTER ii 

Young Italy, and it is just because he managed 
to keep himself so free of suspicion that he was 
able to do such good work for the cause.' She 
paused, and then went on with a firmer voice. 
* You don't know the danger we all lived in. 
The government spies were everywhere. The 
laws were set aside as the Duke pleased — ^was 
not Emilio hanged for having an ode to Italy in 
his desk ? After Menotti's conspiracy the Duke 
grew mad with fear — he was haunted by the 
dread of assassination. The police, to prove 
their zeal, had to trump up false charges and 
arrest innocent persons — you remember the case 
of poor Ricci ? Incriminating papers were 
smuggled into people's houses — ^they were con- 
demned to death on the paid evidence of brigands 
and galley-slaves. The families of the revolu- 
tionists were under the closest observation and 
were shunned by all who wished to stand well 
with the government. If Briga had been seen 
going into our house he womd at once have 
been suspected. If he had hidden Emilio's 
letter at home, its discovery might have ruined 
his family as well as himself. It was his duty 
to consider all these things. In those days no 
man could serve two masters, and he had to 
choose between endangering the cause and fail- 
ing to serve a friend. Hg chose the latter — 
and he was right.' 

I stood listening, fascinated by the rapidity 
and skill with which she had built up the 
hypothesis of Briga's defence. But before she 


ended a strange thing happened — ^her argument 
had convinced me. It seemed to me quite 
likely that Briga had in fact been actuated by 
the motives she suggested. 

I suppose she read the admission in my face, 
for hers lit up victoriously. 

* You see ? * she exclaimed. * Ah, it takes 
one brave man to understand another.' 

Perhaps I winced a little at being thus coupled 
with her hero ; at any rate, some last impulse 
of resistance made me say : ^ I should be quite 
convinced, if Briga had only spoken of the 
letter afterward. If brave people understand 
each other, I cannot see why he should have 
been afraid of telling you the truth.* 

She coloured deeply, and perhaps not quite 

* You are right,' she said ; * he need not have 
been afraid. But he does not know me as I 
know him. I was useful to Italy, and he may 
have feared to risk my friendship.' 

* You are the most generous woman I ever 
knew ! ' I exclaimed. 

She looked at me intently. ^ You also are 
generous,' she said. 

I stiflened instantly, suspecting a purpose 
behind her praise. * I have given you small 
proof of it ! ' I said. 

She seemed surprised. ^ In bringing me this 
letter ? What else could you do ? ' She sighed 
deeply. * You can give me proof enough now.' 

ohe had dropped into a ch^ir, and I saw that 

26o THE LETTER ii 

we had reached the most difficult point in our 

^ Captun Alingdon,' she said, * does any one 
else know of this letter ? ' 

*No. I was alone in the archives when I 
found it/ 

' And you spoke of it to no one ? ' 

* To no one/ 

* Then no one must know/ 

I bowed. • It is for you to decide.* 

She paused. *Not even my mother,' she 
continued, with a psunfiil blush. 

I looked at her in amazement. * Not 
even ? * 

She shook her head sadly. ^ You think me 
a cruel daughter ? Well — he was a cruel friend. 
What he did was done for Italy : shall I allow 
myself to be surpassed ? ' 

I felt a pang of commiseration for the mother. 
* But you will at least tell the Countess ' 

Her eyes filled with tears. * My poor mother 
— don't make it more difficult for me ! ' 

* But I don't understand ' 

^ Don't you see that she might find it im- 
possible to forgive him } She has suffered so 
much ! And I can't risk that — for in her anger 
she might speak. And even if she forgave him, 
she might be tempted to show the letter. Don't 
you see that, even now, a word of this might 
ruin him ^ I will trust his fate to no one. If 
Italy needed him then she needs him far more 


She stood before me magnificently, in the 
splendour of her great refusal ; then she turned 
to the writing-table at which she had been 
seated when I came in. Her sealing-taper was 
still alight, and she held her brother's letter to 
the flame. 

I watched her in silence while it burned ; but 
one more question rose to my lips. 

* You will tell himy then, what you have done 
for him ? * I cried. 

And at that the heroine turned woman, 
melted, and pressed unhappy hands in mine. 

* Don't you see that I can never tell hiiti 
what I do for him } That is my gift to Italy,' 
she ssud. 






It was on an impulse hardly needing the argu- 
ments he found himself advancing in its favour, 
that Thursdale, on his way to the club, turned 
as usual into Mrs. Vervain's street. 

The ^ as usual ' was his own qualification of 

^ the act ; a convenient way of bridging the 

interval — in days and other sequences — that lay 
between this visit and the last. It was 
characteristic of him that he instinctively ex- 
cluded his call two days earlier, with Ruth 
Gaynor, from the list of his visits to Mrs. 
Vervain : the special conditions attending it had 
made it no more like a visit to Mrs. Vervain 

I than an engraved dinner invitation is like a 

personal letter. Yet it was to talk over his call 
with Miss Gaynor that he was now returning to 

^ the scene of that episode ; and it was because 

Mrs. Vervain could be trusted to handle the 
talking over as skilfully as the interview itself 
that, at her corner, he had felt the dilettante's 
irresistible craving to take a last look at a work 
of art that was passing out of his possession. 
On the whole, he knew no one better fitted 




to deal with the unexpected than Mrs. Vervsun. 
She excelled in the rare art of taking things for 
granted, and Thursdale felt a pardonable pride 
in the thought that she owed her excellence to 
his training. Early in his career Thursdale had 
made the mistake, at the outset of his acquaint- 
ance with a lady, of telling her that he loved her 
and exacting the same avowal in return. The 
latter part of that episode had been like the 
long walk back from a picnic, when one has to 
carry all the crockery one has finished using : 
it was the last time Thursdale ever allowed 
himself to be encumbered with the debris of a 
feast. He thus incidentally learned that the 
privilege of loving her is one of the least favours 
that a charming woman can accord ; and in 
seeking to avoid the pitfalls of sentiment he 
had developed a science of evasion in which 
the woman of the moment became a mere 
implement of the game. He owed a great 
deal of delicate enjoyment to the cultivation of 
this art. The penis from which it had been his 
refuge became naively harmless : was it possible 
that he who now took his easy way along the 
levels had once preferred to gasp on the raw 
heights of emotion ? Youth is a high-coloured 
season ; but he had the satisfaction of feeling 
that he had entered earlier than most into that 
chiaroscuro of sensation where every half-tone 
has its value. 

As a promoter of this pleasure no one he had 
known was comparable to Mrs. Vervain. He had 


taught a good many women not to betray their 
feelings, but he had never before had such fine 
material to work in. She had been surprisingly 
crude when he first knew her ; capable of 
making the most awkward inferences, of plunging 
through thin ice, of recklessly undressing her 
emotions ; but she had acquired, under the 
discipline of his reticences and evasions, a skill 
almost equal to his own, and perhaps more 
remarkable in that it involved keeping time 
with any tune he played and reading at sight 
some uncommonly difficult passages. 

It had taken Thursdale seven years to form 
this fine talent ; but the result justified the 
effort. At the crucial moment she had been 
perfect : her way of greeting Miss Gaynor had 
made him regret that he had announced his 
engagement by letter. It was an evasion that 
confessed a difficulty ; a deviation implying an 
obstacle, where, by common consent, it was 
agreed to see none ; it betrayed, in short, a lack 
of confidence in the completeness of his method. 
It had been his pride never to put himself in a 
position which had to be quitted, as it were, by 
the back door ; but here, as he perceived, the 
main portals would have opened for him of 
their own accord. All this, and much more, he 
read in the finished naturalness with which Mrs. 
Vervain had met Miss Gaynor. He had never 
seen a better piece of work : there was no over- 
eagerness, no suspicious warmth, above all (and 
this gave her art the grace of a natural quality) 



there were none of those damnable implications 
whereby a woman, in welcoming her friend's 
betrothed, may keep him on pins and needles 
while she laps the lady in complacency. So 
masterly a performance, indeed, hardly needed 
the ofl^et or Miss Gaynor's door-step words — 
* To be so kind to me, how she must have liked 
ou ! ' — ^though he caught himself wishing it 
y within the bounds of fitness to transmit 
them, as a final tribute, to the one woman he 
knew who was unfailingly certain to enjoy a 
good thing. It was perhaps the one drawback 
to his new situation that it might develop good 
things which it would be impossible to hand on 
to Margaret Vervain. 

The fact that he had made the mistake of 
under-rating his friend's powers, the conscious- 
ness that his writing must have betrayed his 
distrust of her efficiency, seemed an added 
reason for turning down her street instead of 
going on to the club. He would show her that 
he knew how to value her ; he would ask her 
to achieve with him a feat infinitely rarer and 
more delicate than the one he had appeared to 
avoid. Incidentally, he would also dispose of 
the interval of time before dinner : ever since 
he had seen Miss Gaynor oflF, an hour earlier, on 
her return journey to Buffalo, he had been 
wondering how he should put in the rest of the 
afternoon. It was absurd, how he missed the 
girl. . . . Yes, that was it : the desire to talk 
about her was, after all, at the bottom of his 



impulse to call on Mrs. Vervain ! It was 
absurd, if you like ^- but it was delightfully 
rejuvenating. He could recall the time when 
he had been afraid of being obvious : now he 
felt that this return to the primitive emotions 
might be as restorative as a holiday in the 
Canadian woods. And it was precisely by the 
girl's candour, her directness, her lack of com- 
plications, that he was taken. The sense that 
she might say something rash at any moment 
was positively exhilarating : if she had thrown 
her arms about him at the station he would not 
have given a thought to his crumpled dignity. ' 
It surprised Thursdale to find what freshness of 
heart he brought to the adventure ; and though 
his sense of irony prevented his ascribing his 
intactness to any conscious purpose, he could 
but rejoice in the fact that his sentimental, 
economies had left him such a large surplus to/ 
draw upon. 

Mrs. Vervain was at home — as usual. When 
one visits the cemetery one expects to find the 
angel on the tombstone, and it struck Thursdale 
as another proof of his friend's good taste that 
she had been in no undue haste to change her 
habits. The whole house appeared to count on 
his coming ; the footman took his hat and 
overcoat as .naturally as though there had been 
no lapse in his visits ; and the drawing-room at 
once enveloped him in that atmosphere of tacit 
intelligence which Mrs. Vervain imparted to 
her very furniture. 


It was a surprise that, in this general harmony 
of circumstances, Mrs. Vervain should herself 
sound the first fsdse note. 

* You ? ' she exclaimed ; and the book she 
held slipped from her hand. 

It was crude, certainly ; unless it were a 
touch of the finest art. The difficulty of classi- 
fying it disturbed Thursdale's balance. 

* why not?* he said, restoring the book. 
* Isn't it my hour? ' And as she made no answer, 
he added gently, * Unless it's some one else's ? ' 

She laid the book aside and sank back into 
her chair. * Mine, merely,' she said. 

*I hope that doesn't mean that you're im- 
willing to share it ? ' 

* W ith you ? By no means. You're welcome 
to my last crust.' 

He looked at her reproachfully. *Do you 
call this the last ? ' 

She smiled as he dropped into the seat across 
the hearth. *It's a way of giving it more 
flavour ! * 

He returned the smile. *A visit to you 
doesn't need such condiments.' 

She took this with just the right measure of 
retrospective amusement. 

* Ah, but I want to put into this one a very 
special taste,' she confessed. 

Her smile was so confident, so reassuring, 
that it lulled him into the imprudence of say- 
ing : * Why should you want it to be different 
from what was always so perfectly right ? ' 



She hesitated. * Doesn't the fact that it's 
the last constitute a difference ? ' 

* The last — my last visit to you ? * 

* Oh, metaphorically, I mean — ^there's a break 
in the continuity/ 

Decidedly, she was pressing too hard: un- 
learning his arts already ! 

* I don't recognize it,' he said. * Unless you 

make me ' he added, with a note that slightly 

stirred her attitude of languid attention. 

She turned to him with grave eyes. * You 
recognize no difference whatever ? ' 

* None — except an added link in the chain.' 

* An added link ? ' 

* In having one more thing to like you for — 
your letting Miss Gaynor see why I had already 
so many.' He flattered himself that this turn 
had taken the least hint of fatuity from the 

Mrs. Vervain sank into her former easy pose. 
^ Was it that you came for ? ' she asked, almost 

*If it is necessary to have a reason — that 
was one.' 

* To talk to me about Miss Gaynor ? ' 

* To tell you how she talks about you.' 

* That will be very interesting— especially if 
you have seen her since her second visit to 

* Her second visit ? ' Thursdale pushed his 
chair back with a start and moved to another. 
* She came to see you again ? ' 


* This morning, yes — by appointment/ 

He continued to look at her blankly. * You 
sent for her ? * 

* I didn't have to— she wrote and asked me 
last night. But no doubt you have seen her 

Thursdale sat silent. He was trying to 
separate his words from his thoughts, but they 
still clung together inextricably. 'I saw her 
off just now at the station.' 

* And she didn't tell you that she had been 
here again ? ' 

•There was hardly time, I suppose — ^there 
were people about ' he floundered. 

* Ah, she'll write, then.' 

He regained his composure. •Of course 
she'll write : very often, I hope. You know 
I'm absurdly in love,' he cried audaciously. 

She tilted her head back, looking up at him 
as he leaned against the chimney-piece. He 
had leaned there so often that the attitude 
touched a pulse which set up a throbbing in 
her throat. * Oh, my poor Thursdale ! ' she 

* I suppose it's rather ridiculous,' he owned ; 
and as she remained silent he added, with a 
sudden break — ^•Or have you another reason 
for pitying me ? ' 

Her answer was another question. •Have 
you been back to your rooms since you left her ?' 

* Since I left her at the station ? I came 
straight here,' 

• r 





*Ah, yes — you could: there was no reason 
Her words passed into a silent musing. 

Thursdale moved nervously nearer. *You 
said you had something to tell me } ' 

* Perhaps I had better let her do so. There 
may be a letter at your rooms.* 

* A letter ? What do you mean } A letter 
from her ? What has happened ? ' 

His paleness shook her, and she raised a 
hand of reassurance. ^Nothing has happened 
— perhaps that is just the worst of it. You 
always hated^ you know/ she added incoherently, 

* to have things happen : you never would let 

* And now ^ ' 

* Well, that was what she came here for : I 
supposed you had guessed. To know if any- 
thing had happened.' 

* Had happened ? ' He gazed at her slowly. 

* Between you and me ? ' he said with a rush of 

The words were so much cruder than any 
that had ever passed between them that the 
colour rose to her face ; but she held his 
startled gaze. 

*You know girls are not quite as unso- 
phisticated as they used to be. Are you 
surprised that such an idea should occur to 
her } ' 

His own colour answered hers : it was the 
only reply that came to him. 

Mrs. Vervain went on smoothly ; * I supposed 



it might have struck you that there were times 
when we presented that appearance/ 

He made an impatient gesture. ^A man's 
; past is his own ! ' 

* Perhaps — ^it certwnly never belongs to the 
f woman who has shared it. But one learns such 
f truths only by experience ; and Miss Gaynor 

is naturally inexperienced.' 

* Of course — but — supposing her act a natural 
one' — he floundered lamentably among his 
innuendoes — * I still don't see — ^how there was 

* Anything to take hold of? There 
wasn't ' 

* Well, then ? ' escaped him, in undisguised 
satisfaction ; but as she did not complete the 
sentence he went on with a faltering laugh : 
*She can hardly object to the existence of a 
mere friendship between us ! ' 

* But she does,' said Mrs. Vervain. 
Thursdale stood perplexed. He had seen, 

on the previous day, no trace of jealousy or 
resentment in his betrothed : he could still hear 
the candid ring of the girl's praise of Mrs. 
Vervain. If she were such an abyss of insin- 
cerity as to dissemble distrust under such frank- 
ness, she must at least be more subde than to 
bring her doubts to her rival for solution. The 
situation seemed one through which one could 
no longer move in a penumbra, and he let in 
a burst of light with the direct query : * Won't 
you explain what you mean ? ' 


Mrs. Vervain sat silent, not provokingly, as 
though to prolong his distress, but as if, in the 
attenuated phraseology he had taught her, it 
was difficult to find words robust enough to 
meet his challenge. It was the first time he 
had ever asked her to explain anything ; and 
she had lived so long in dread of offering 
elucidations which were not wanted, that she 
seemed unable to produce one on the spot. 

At last she said slowly: *She came to find 
out if you were really free.* 

Thursdale coloured again. * Free ? ' he 
stammered, with a sense of physical disgust at 
contact with such crassness. 

* Yes — if I had quite done with you.* She 
smiled in recovered security. *It seems she 
likes clear outline ; she has a passion for 

*Yes — well.^* he said, wincing at the echo 
of his own subtlety. 

*Well — and when I told her that you had 
never belonged to me, she wanted me to define 
my status — to know exactly where I had stood 
all along.* 

Thursdale sat gazing at her intently ; his 
hand was not yet on the clue. *And even 
when you had told her that * 

* Even when I had told her that I had had 
no status — that I had never stood anywhere, 
in any sense she meant,* said Mrs. Vervain, 
slowly — *even then she wasn't satisfied, it 



He uttered an uneasy exclamation. *She 
didn't believe you, you mean ? ' 

^ I mean that she did believe me : too 

* Well, then — in God's name, what did she 
want ? * 

* Something more — ^those were the words she 

* Something more ? Between — ^between you 
and me ? Is it a conundrum ? ' He laughed 

* Girls are not what they were in my day ; 
they are no longer forbidden to contemplate the 
relation of the sexes.* 

* So it seems ! ' he commented. ^ But since, 

in this case, there wasn't any ' He broke off, 

catching the dawn of a revelation in her gaze. 

* That's just it. The unpardonable offence 
has been — in our not offending.' 

He flung himself down despairingly. *I 
give it up ! — ^What did you tell her ? ' he burst 
out with sudden crudeness. 

* The exact truth. If I had only known,* 
she broke off with a beseeching tenderness, 
* won*t you believe that I would still have lied 
for you } * 

* Lied for me ? Why on earth should you 
have lied for either of us ^ ' 

* To save you — to hide you from her to the 
last ! As I've hidden you from myself all these 
years ! ' She stood up with a sudden tragic 
import in her movement. *You believe me 


capable of that, don't you? If I had only 
guessed — but I have never known a girl like 
her ; she had the truth out of me with a 

* The truth that you and I had never ' 

^ Had never — never in all these years ! Oh, 
she knew why — she measured us both in a flash. 
She didn't suspect me of having haggled with 
you — her words pelted me like hail. " He just 
took what he wanted — sifted and sorted you to 
suit his taste. Burnt out the gold and left a 
heap of cinders. And you let him — you let 
yourself be cut in bits " — she mixed her meta- 
phors a little — " be cut in bits, and used or dis- 
carded, while all the while every drop of blood 
in you belonged to him ! But he's Shylock — 
he's Shylock — and you have bled to death of 
the pound of flesh he has cut out of you." But 
she despises me the most, you know — far the 
most ' Mrs. Vervain ended. 

The words fell strangely on the scented still- 
ness of the room : they seemed out of harmony 
with its setting of afternoon intimacy, the kind 
of intimacy on which, at any moment, a visitor 
might intrude without perceptibly lowering the 
atmosphere. It was as though a grand opera- 
singer had strained the acoustics of a private 

Thursdale stood up, facing his hostess. 
Half the room was between them, but they 
seemed to stare close at each other now that the 
veils of reticence and ambiguity had fallen. 



His first words were characteristic : * She 
Jaes despise me, then ? ' he exclaimed. * 

* She thinks the pound of flesh you took was 
a little too near the heart/ 

He was excessively pale. * Please tell me 
exactly what she said of me/ 

* She did not speak much of you : she is 
proud. But I gather that while she under- 
stands love or indiflference, her eyes have never 
been opened to the many intermediate shades 
of feeling. At any rate, she expressed an im- 
willingness to be taken with reservations — ^she 
thinks you would have loved her better if you 
had loved some one else first. The point of 
view is original— ^e in^sts on a man with a 
past ! • 

^ Oh, a past — if she*s serious — I could rake 
up a past ! * he said with a laugh. 

* So I suggested ; but she has her eyes on 
this particukr portion of it. She insists on 
making it a test case. She wanted to know 
what you had done to me ; and before I 
could guess her drift I blundered into telling 

Thursdale drew a difficult breath. * I never 
supposed— your revenge is complete,' he ssud 

He heard a little gasp in her throat. ^ My 
revenge ? When I sent for you to warn you 
— to save you from being surprised as / was 
surprised f ' 

*YouVe very good — ^but it's rather late to 


talk of saving me.' He held out his hand in 
the mechanical gesture of leave-taking. 

' How you must care ! — for I never saw you 
so dull/ was her answer. * Don't you see that 
it's not too late for me to help you ? ' And as 
he continued to stare, she brought out sublimely : 
*Take the rest — in imagination! Let it at 
least be of that much use to you. Tell her Ij 
lied to her — she's too ready to believe it ! And 
so, after all, in a sense, I shan't have been 

His stare hung on her, widening to a kind 
of wonder. She gave the look back brightly, 
unblushingly, as though the expedient were 
too simple to need oblique approaches. It was 
extraordinary how a few words had swept them 
from an atmosphere of the most complex dis- 
simulations to this contact of naked souls. 

It was not in Thursdale to expand with the 
pressure of fate ; but something in him cracked 
with it, and the rift let in new light. He went 
up to his friend and took her hand. 

* You would do it — you would do it ! ' 

She looked at him, smiling, but her hand 

* Good-bye,' he said, kissing it. 

* Good-bye ? You are going ? ' 

* To get my letter.* 

*Your letter? The letter won't matter, if 
you will only do what I ask.' 

He returned her gaze. * I might, I suppose, 
without being out of character. Only, don't 


you see that if your plan helped me it could 
only harm her ? * 

* To sacrifice you wouldn't make me different. 
I shall go on being what I have always been — > 
sifting and sorting, as she calls it. Do you want 
my punishment to fall on her ? ' 

She looked at him long and deeply. ' Ah, 
if I had to choose between you ! ' 

* You would let her take her chance ? But 
I can't, you see. I must take my punishment 

She drew her hand away, sighing. *Oh, 
there will be no punishment for either of you.' 

* For either of us f There will be the read- 
ing of her letter for me.' 

She shook her head with a slight laugh. 
* There will be no letter.' 

Thursdale faced about from the threshold 
with fresh life in his look. * No letter ? You 
don't mean ' 

* I mean that she's been with you since I saw 
her — she's seen you and heard your voice. If 
there is a letter, she has recalled it — from the 
first station, by tel^raph.' 

He turned back to the door, forcing an 
answer to her smile. ^But in the meanwhile 
I shall have read it,' he said. 

The door closed on him, and she hid her 
eyes from the dreadful emptiness of the room. 




As Mrs. Quentin's victoria, driving homeward, 
turned from the Park into Fifth Avenue, she 
divined her son's tall figure walking ahead of 
her in the twilight. His long stride covered 
the ground more rapidly than usual, and she 
had a premonition that, if he were going home 
at that hour, it was because he wanted to see 

Mrs. Quentin, though not a fanciful woman, 
was sometimes aware of a sixth sense enabling 
her to detect the faintest vibrations of her son's 
impulses. She was too shrewd to fancy herself 
the one mother in possession of this faculty, but 
she permitted herself to think that few could 
exercise it more discreetly. If she could not 
help overhearing Alan's thoughts, she had the 
courage to keep her discoveries to herself, the 
tact to take for granted nothing that lay below 
the surface of their spoken intercourse : she 
knew that most people would rather have their 
letters read than their thoughts. For this super- 
feminine discretion Alan repaid her by — being 
Alan. There could have been no completer 



reward. He was the key to the meaning of 
life, the justification of what must have seemed 
as incomprehensible as it was odious, had it not 
all-suffidngly ended in himself. He was a 
perfect son, and Mrs. Quentin had always 
hungered for perfection. 

Her house, in a minor way, bore witness to 
the craving. One felt it to be the result of a 
series of eliminations : there was nothing for- 
tuitous in its blending of line and colour. The 
almost morbid finish of every material detail of 
her life suggested the possibility that a diversity 
of energies had, by some pressure of circum- 
stance, been forced into the channel of a narrow 
dilettantism. Mrs. Quentin*s fastidiousness had, 
indeed, the flaw of being too one-^ided. Her 
friends were not always worthy of the chairs 
they sat in, and she overlooked in her associates 
defects she would not have tolerated in her bric- 
a-brac. Her house was, in fact, never so dis- 
tinguished as when it was empty ; and it was at 
its best in the warm fire-lit ^ence that now 
received her. 

Her son, who had overtaken her on the 
door-step, followed her into the drawing-room, 
and threw himself into an arm-chair near the 
fire, while she laid off her furs and busied herself 
about the tea-table. For a while neither spoke ; 
but glancing at him across the kettle, his mother 
noticed that he sat staring at the embers with a 
look she had never seen on his face, though its 
arrogant young outline was as familiar to her 


as her own thoughts. The look extended itself 
to his negligent attitude, to the droop of his 
long fine hands, the dejected tilt of his head 
against the cushions. It was like the moral 
equivalent of physical fatigue : he looked, as he 
himself would have phrased it, dead-beat, played 
out. Such an air was so foreign to his usual 
bright indomitableness that Mrs. Quentin had 
the sense of an unfamiliar presence, in which 
she must observe herself, must raise hurried 
barriers against an alien approach. It was one 
of the drawbacks of their excessive intimacy that 
any break in it seemed a chasm. 

She was accustomed to let his thoughts circle 
about her before they settled into speech, and 
she now sat in motionless expectancy, as though 
a sound might frighten them away. 

At length, without turning his eyes from the 
fire, he said : * I'm so glad you're a nice old- 
fashioned intuitive woman. It's painful to see 
them think.' 

Her apprehension had already preceded him. 
* Hope Fenno— ? ' she faltered. 

He nodded. * She's been thinking — ^hard. 
It was very panful — to me at least ; and I 
don't believe she enjoyed it : she said she 
didn't.' He stretched his feet to the fire. 
*The result of her cogitations is that she 
won't have me. She arrived at this by pure 
ratiocination — it's not a question of feeling, you 
understand. I'm the only man she's ever 
loved — but she won't have me. What novels 


did you read when you were young, dear? 
Tin convinced it all turns on that. If she'd 
been brought up on Trollope and Whyte- 
Melville, instead of Tolstoi and Mrs. Ward, 
we should have now been vulgarly ^tting on a 
sofa, trying on the engagement-ring.' 

Mrs. Quentin at first was kept silent by the 
mother's instinctive anger that the girl she has 
not wanted for her son should have dared 
to refuse him. Then she ssud : ^ Tell me, 

* My good woman, she has scruples.' 

* Scruples ? ' 

* Against the paper. She objects to me in 
my official capacity as owner of the Radiator.^ 

His mother did not echo his laugh. 

^She had found a solution, of course — ^she 
overflows with expedients. I was to chuck the 
paper, and we were to live happily ever after- 
ward on canned food and virtue. She even 
had an alternative ready — women are so full 
[ of resources ! I was to turn the Radiator into 
an independent organ, and run it at a loss to 
show the public what a model newspaper ought 
to be. On the whole, I think she fancied this 
plan more than the other — it commended 
itself to her as being more uncomfortable and 
aggressive. It's not the fashion nowadays to 
be good by stealth.' 

Mrs. Quentin said to herself : *I didn't know 
how much he cared ! ' Aloud she murmured : 
* You must give her time.' 



* To move out the old prejudices and make 
room for new ones/ 

• My dear mother, those she has are brand- 
new ; that's the trouble with them. She's 
tremendously up-to-date. She takes in all 
the moral fashion-papers, and wears the newest 
thing in ethics.' 

Her resentment lost its way in the intricacies 
of his metaphor. * Is she so very religious ? ' 

• You dear archaic woman ! She's hopelessly 
irreligious ; that's the difficulty. You can make | 
a religious woman believe almost anything : \ 
there's the habit of credulity to work on. But / 
when a girl's faith in the Deluge has been ; 
shaken, it's very hard to inspire her with con- 
fidence. She makes you feel that, before be- 
lieving in you, it's her duty as a conscientious 
agnostic to find out whether you're not 
obsolete, or whether the text isn't corrupt, or 
somebody hasn't proved conclusively that you 
never existed, anyhow.' 

Mrs. Quentin was again silent. The two 
moved in that atmosphere of implications and 
assumptions where the lightest word may shake 
down the dust of countless stored impressions ; 
and speech was sometimes more difficult be- 
tween them than had their union been less 

Presently she ventured, * It's impossible ? * 

* Impossible ? ' 

She seemed to use her words cautiously, like 


weapons that might slip and inflict a cut. 

* What she suggests.' 

Her son, raising himself, turned to look at 
her for the first time. Their glance met in a 
shock of comprehen^on. He was with her 
against the girl, then ! Her satisfaction over- 
flowed in a murmur of tenderness. 

* Of course not, dear. One can't change — 
change one's life. . . .' 

* One's self,' he emended. * That's what 
I tell her. What's the use of my giving up 
the paper if I keep my point of view } ' 

The pychological (Ustinction attracted her. 

* Which IS it she minds most ? ' 

* Oh, the paper — for the present. She 
undertakes to modify the point of view after- 
ward. All she asks is that I shall renounce 
my heresy : the gift of grace will come later.' 

Mrs. Quentin sat gazing into her untouched 
cup. Her son's first words had produced in 
her the hallucinated sense of struggling in the 
thick of a crowd that he could not see. It 
was horrible to feel herself hemmed in by 
influences imperceptible to him ; yet if any- 
thing could have increased her misery it would 
have been the discovery that her ghosts had 
become visible. 

As though to divert his attentioy, she pre- 
cipitately asked : * And you ? ' 

His answer carried the shock of an evoca- 
tion. *I merely asked her what she thought 




* She admires you immensely, you know/ 
For a moment Mrs. Quentin's cheek showed 

the lingering light of girlhood : praise trans- 
mitted by her son acquired something of the 
transmitter's merit. * Well ? ' she smiled. 

* Well — you didn't make my father give up 
the Radiator^ did you ? ' 

His mother, stiffening, made a circuitous 
return : * She never comes here. How can 
she know me ? ' 

* She's so poor ! She goes out so little.* 
He rose and leaned against the mantelpiece, 
dislodging with impatient fingers a slender 
bronze wrestler poised on a porphyry base, 
between two warm -toned Spanish ivories. 

*And then her mother ' he added, as if 


*Her mother has never visited me,' Mrs. 
Quentin finished for him. 

He shrugged his shoulders. * Mrs. Fenno 
has the scope of a wax doll. Her rule of 
conduct is taken from her grandmother's 

*But the daughter is so modern — and 
yet ' 

* The result is the same ? Not exactly. She 
admires you — oh, immensely ! * He replaced 
the bronze and turned to his mother with a 
smile. * Aren't you on some hospital committee 
together ? What especially strikes her is your 
way of doing good. She says philanthropy is 



not a line of conduct but a state of mind — ^and 
it appears that you are one of the elect.' 

As, in the vague diffusion of phy^cal pdn, 
relief seems to come with the acuter pang of a 
single nerve, Mrs. Quentin felt herself suddenly 
eased by a rush of anger against the girl. ^ If 
she loved you * she began. 

His gesture checked her. 'Tm not asking 
you to get her to do that.' 

The two were agaun silent, facing each other 
in the disarray of a common catastrophe — as 
though their thoughts, at the summons of 
danger, had rushed naked into action. Mrs. 
Quentin, at this revealing moment, saw for the 
first time how many elements of her son's 
character had seemed comprehensible simply 
because they were familiar : as, in reading a 
foreign language, we take the meaning of certain 
words for granted till the context corrects us. 
Often as, in a given case, her maternal musings 
had figured his conduct, she now found herself 
at a loss to forecast it ; and with this failure of 
intuition came a sense of the subserviency which 
had hitherto made her counsels but the anticipa- 
tion of his wish. Her despair escaped in the 
moan, * What is it you ask me ? ' 

* To talk to her.* 

* Talk to her ? ' 

* Show her — tell her — make her understand 
that the paper has always been a thing outside 
your life — that hasn't touched you — that needn't 
touch her. Only, let her hear you — watch you 


— be with you — she'll see . . . she can't help 
seeing. . . .' 

His mother faltered. * But if she's given you 
her reasons ? ' 

* Let her give them to you ! If she can — 
when she sees you. . . .' His impatient hand 
again displaced the wrestler. *I care abomin- 
ably,' he confessed. 


On the Fenno threshold a sudden sense of the 
futility of the attempt had almost driven Mrs. 
Quentin back to her carriage ; but the door 
was already opening, and a parlour-maid, who 
believed that Miss Fenno was in, led the way to 
the depressing drawing-room. It was the kind 
of room in which no member of the family is 
likely to be found except after dinner or after 
death. The chairs and tables looked like poor 
relations who had repaid their keep by a long 
career of grudging usefulness : they seemed 
banded together against intruders in a sullen 
conspiracy of discomfort. Mrs. Quentin, keenly 
susceptible to such influences, read failure in 
every angle of the upholstery. She was in- 
capable of the vulgar error of thinking that 
Hope Fenno might be induced to marry Alan 
for his money ; but between this assumption 
and the inference that the girl's imagination 
might be touched by the finer possibilities of 
wealth, good taste adniitted a distinction. The 
Fenno furniture, however, presented to such 



reasoning the obtuseness of its black -walnut 
chamferings ; and something in its attitude 
suggested that its owners would be as uncom- 
promising. The room showed none of the 
modern attempts at palliation, no apologetic 
draping of facts ; and Mrs. Quentin, provision- 
ally perched on a green-reps Gothic sofa with 
which it was clearly impossible to establish any 
closer relation, concluded that, had Mrs. Fenno 
needed another seat of the same size, she would 
have set out placidly to match the one on which 
her visitor now languished. 

To Mrs. Quentin's fancy, Hope Fenno's 
opinions, presently imparted in a clear young 
voice from the opposite angle of the Gothic 
sofa, partook of the character of their surround- f 
ings. The girl's mind was like a large light 
empty place, scantily furnished with a few 
massive prejudices, not designed to add to any 
one's comfort but too ponderous to be easily 
moved. Mrs. Quentin's own intelligence, in 
which Its owner, in an artistically shaded half- 
light, had so long moved amid a delicate com- 
plexity of sensations, seemed in comparison 
suddenly close and crowded ; and in taking 
refuge there from the glare of the young girl's 
candour, the older woman found herself stumb- 
ling in an unwonted obscurity. Her uneasiness 
resolved itself into a sense of irritation against 
her listener. Mrs. Quentin knew that the 
momentary value of any argument lies in the 
capacity of the mind to which it is addressed ; 


and as her shafts of persuasion spent themselves 
against Miss Fenno's obduracy, she said to 
herself that, since conduct is governed by 
emotions rather than ideas, the really strong 
people are those who mistake their sensations 
for opinions. Viewed in this light, Miss Fenno 
was certainly very strong : there was an un- 
mistakable ring of finality in the tone with 
which she declared : 

* It's impossible/ 

Mrs. Quentin's answer veiled the least shade 
of feminine resentment. *I told Alan that 
where he had failed there was no chance of my 
making an impression.' 

Hope Fenno laid on her visitor's an almost 
reverential hand. *Dear Mrs. Quentin, it's 
the impression you make that confirms the 

Mrs. Quentin waited a moment : she was 
perfectly aware that, where her feelings were 
concerned, her sense of humour was not to be 
relied on. * Do I make such an odious impres- 
sion.^' she asked at length, with a smile that 
seemed to give the girl her choice of two 

* You make such a beautiful one ! It's too 
beautiful — it obscures my judgment.' 

Mrs. Quentin looked at her thoughtfully. 
•Would it be permissible, I wonder, for an 
older woman to suggest that, at your age, it 
isn't always a misfortune to have what one calls 
one's judgment temporarily obscured ? * 


Miss Fenno flushed. *I try not to judge 
others ' 

* You judge Alan/ 

*Ah, he is not others/ she murmured with 
an accent that touched the older woman. 

* You judge his mother/ 

* I don't ; I don't.' 

Mrs. Quentin pressed her point. *You 
judge yourself, then, as you would be in my 
position — and your verdict condemns me.' 

* How can you think it ? It's because I 
appreciate the diflference in our point of view 
that I find it so diflSicult to defend myself ' 

* Against what ? ' 

* The temptation to imagine that I might be 
^syou are — feeling as I do.' 

Mrs. Quentin rose with a sigh. *My 
child, in my day love was less subtle.' She 
added, after a moment : ^ Alan is a perfect 

* Ah, that again — that makes it worse ! ' 

* Worse ? • 

* Just as your goodness does, your sweetness, 
your immense indulgence in letting me discuss 
things with you in a way that must seem almost 
an impertinence.' 

Mrs. Quentin's smile was not without 
irony. * You must remember that I do it for 

* That's what I love you for ! ' the girl 
instantly returned ; and again her tone touched 
her listener. 


* And yet you're sacrificing him — and to an 

^ Isn't it to ideas that all the sacrifices that 
were worth while have been made ? ' 

* One may sacrifice one's self/ 
Miss Fenno's colour rose. * That's what I'm 

doing/ she said gently. 

Mrs. Quentin took her hand. * I believe you 
are/ she answered. *And it isn't true that I 
speak only for Alan. Perhaps I did when I 
began ; but now I want to plead for you too — 
a^inst yourself.' She paused, and then went on 
with a deeper note : *• I have let you, as you say, 
speak your mind to me in terms that some 
women might have resented, because I wanted to 
show you now little, as the years go on, theories, 
ideas, abstract conceptions of life, weigh against 
the actual, against the particular way in which 
life presents itself to us — ^to women especially. 
To decide beforehand exactly how one ought to 
behave in given circumstances is like deciding 
that one will follow a certain direction in crossing 
an unexplored country. Afterward we find that 
j we must turn out for the obstacles — cross the 
rivers where they're shallowest — take the tracks 
that others have beaten — make all sorts of 
unexpected concessions. Life is made up of 
compromises : that is what youth refuses to 
understand. I've lived long enough to doubt 
whether any real good ever came of sacrificing 
beautiful facts to even more beautiful theories. 
Do I seem casuistical ? I don't know — there 


may be losses either way . . . but the love of 
the man one loves ... of the child one loves 
. . . that makes up for everything. . . .* 

She had spoken with a thrill which seemed to 
communicate itself to the hand her listener had 
left in hers. Her eyes filled suddenly, but 
through their dimness she saw the girl's lips 
shape a last desperate denial : * Don't you see it's 
because I feel all this that I mustn't — that 
I can't?' 


Mrs. Quentin, in the late spring afternoon, 

had turned in at the doors of the Metropolitan 

Museum. She had been walking in the Park, in 

a solitude oppressed by the ever-present sense of 

her son's trouble, and had suddenly remembered 

that some one had added a Beltraffio to the 

: collection. It was an old habit of Mrs. Quentin's 

. to seek in the enjoyment of the beautiful the 

, distraction that most of her acquaintances 

' appeared to find in each other's company. She 

j had few friends, and their society was welcome 

' to her only in her more superficial moods ; but 

she could drug anxiety with a picture as some 

women can soothe it with a bonnet. 

During the six months which had elapsed 
since her visit to Miss Fenno she had been 
conscious of a pain of which she had supposed 
herself no longer capable : as a man will continue 
to feel the ache of an amputated arm. She had 
fancied that all her centres of feeling had been 
transferred to Alan ; but she now found herself 
subject to a kind of dual suffering, in which her 
individual pang was the keener in that it divided 



her from her son*s. Alan had surprised her : 
she had not foreseen that he would take a senti- 
mental rebuff so hard. His disappointment 
took the uncommunicative form of a sterner 
application to work. He threw himself into the 
concerns of the Radiator with an aggressive- 
ness which almost betrayed itself in the paper. 
Mrs. Quentin never read the Radiator^ but from 
the glimpses of it reflected in the other journals 
she gathered that it was at least not being 
subjected to the moral reconstruction which had 
been one of Miss Fenno's alternatives. 

Mrs. Quentin never spoke to her son of what 
had happened. She was superior to the cheap 
satisfaction of avenging his injury by depreciating 
its cause. She knew that in sentimental sorrows 
such consolations are as salt in the wound. The 
avoidance of a subject so vividly present to both 
could not but affect the closeness of their 
relation. An invisible presence hampered their 
liberty of speech and thought. The girl was 
always between them ; and to hide the sense of 
her intrusion they began to be less frequently 
together. It was then that Mrs. Quentin 
measured the extent of her isolation. Had she 
ever dared to forecast such a situation, she would 
have proceeded on the conventional theory that 
her son's suffering must draw her nearer to him ; 
and this was precisely the relief that was denied 
her. Alan's uncommunicativeness extended 
below the level of speech, and his mother, 
reduced to the helplessness of dead-reckoning, 


had not even the solace of adapting her sympathy 
to his needs. She did not know what he felt : 
his course was incalculable to her. She some- 
times wondered if she had become as incompre- 
hensible to him ; and it was to find a moment's 
refuge from the dogging misery of such con- 
jectures that she had now turned in at the 

The long line of mellow canvases seemed to 
receive her into the rich calm of an autumn 
twilight. She might have been walking in an 
enchanted wood where the footfall of care never 
sounded. So deep was the sense of seclusion 
that, as she turned from her prolonged com- 
munion with the new Bdtraffio, it was a surprise 
to find that she was not alone. 

A young lady who had risen from the central 
ottoman stood in suspended flight as Mrs. 
Quentin faced her. The older woman was the 
first to regain her self-possession. 

* Miss Fenno ! ' she said. 

The girl advanced with a blush. As it faded, 
Mrs. Quentin noticed a change in her. There 
had always been something bright and banner- 
like in her aspect, but now her look drooped, 
and she hung at half-mast, as it were. Mrs. 
Quentin, in the embarrassment of surprising a 
secret that its possessor was doubtless unconscious 
of betraying, reverted hurriedly to the Beltraffio. 

• I came to see this,' she said. * It's very 

Miss Fenno's eye travelled incuriously over 


the mystic blue reaches of the landscape. ^I 
suppose so/ she assented ; adding, after another 
tentative pause : * You come here often, don*t 
you ? * 

*Very often/ Mrs, Quentin answered. *I 
find pictures a great help/ 

* A help?' 

* A rest, I mean ... if one is tired or out 
of sorts.* 

* Ah,' Miss Fenno murmured, looking down. 
*This Beltraffio is new, you know,' Mrs. 

Quentin continued. * What a wonderful back- 
ground, isn't it ? Is he a painter who interests 

The girl glanced again at the dusky canvas, 
as though in a final endeavour to extract from 
it a clue to the consolations of art. ^ I don't 
know,' she said at length ; * I'm afraid I don't 
understand pictures.' She moved nearer to Mrs, 
Quentin and held out her hand. 

* You're going ? ' 

Mrs. Quentin looked at her. * Let me drive 
you home,' she said, impulsively. She was feel- 
ing, with a shock of surprise, that it gave her, 
after all, no pleasure to see how much the girl 
had suffered. 

Miss Fenno stiffened perceptibly. * Thank 
you ; I shall like the walk.' 

Mrs. Quentin dropped her hand with a 
corresponding movement of withdrawal, and 
a momentary wave of antagonism seemed to 


sweep the two women apart. Then, as Mrs. 
Quentin, bowing slightly, again addressed her- 
self to the picture, she felt a sudden touch on 
her arm. 

* Mrs. Quentin/ the girl faltered, * I really 
came here because I saw your carriage.' Her 
eyes sank, and then fluttered back to her hearer's 
face. * I've been horribly unhappy ! ' she ex- 

Mrs. Quentin was silent. If Hope Fenno 
had expected an immediate response to her 
appeal, she was disappointed. The older woman's 
face was like a veil dropped before her thoughts. 

•I've thought so often,' the girl went on 
precipitately, *of what you said that day you 
came to see me last autumn. I think I under- 
stand now what you meant — what you tried to 
make me see. . . . Oh, Mrs. Quentin,' she 
broke out, * I didn't mean to tell you this — I 
never dreamed of it till this moment — but you 
do remember what you said, don't you ? You 
must remember it ! And now that I've met 
you in this way, I can't help telling you that 
I believe — I begin to believe — that you were 
quite right, after all.' 

Mrs. Quentin had listened without moving ; 
but now she raised her eyes with a slight smile. 
* Do you wish me to say this to Alan ? ' she 

The girl flushed, but her glance braved the 
smile. * Would he still care to hear it ? ' she 
said fearlessly. 


Mrs. Quentin took momentary refuge in a 
renewed inspection of the Beltraffio ; then, 
turning, she said, with a kind of reluctance : 

* He would still care.' 

* Ah ! ' broke from the girl. 

During this exchange of words the two 
speakers had drifted unconsciously toward 
one of the benches. Mrs. Quentin glanced 
about her : a custodian who had been hovering 
in the doorway saimtered into the adjoining 
gallery, and they remained alone among the 
silvery Vandykes and flushed bituminous Halses. 
Mrs. Quentin sank down on the bench and 
reached a hand to the girl. 

* Sit by me,' she said. 

Miss Fenno dropped beside her. In both 
women the stress of emotion was too strong for 
speech. The girl was still trembling, and Mrs. 
Quentin was the first to regain her composure. 

* You say you've suffered,' she began at last. 

* Do you suppose / haven't ? ' 

* I knew you had. That made it so much 
worse for me — that I should have been the cause 
of your suflfering for Alan ! ' 

Mrs. Quentin drew a deep breath. *Not 
for Alan only,' she said. Miss Fenno turned 
on her a wondering glance. *Not for Alan 
only. That pain every woman expects — and 
knows how to bear. We all know our children 
must have such disappointments, and to suffer 
with them is not the deepest pain. It's the 
suffering apart — ^in ways they don't understand ' 


She breathed deeply. 'I want you to know 
what I mean. You were right— that day — and 
I was wrong/ 

* Oh/ the girl faltered. 

Mrs. Quentin went on in a voice of pas- 
sionate lucidity. *I knew it then — I knew it 
reren while I was trying to argue with you — 
I've always known it ! I didn't want my son 
I to marry you till I heard your reasons for 
refusing him ; and then— then I longed to see 
you his wife ! * 

' Oh, Mrs. Quentin ! ' 

^ I longed for it ; but I knew it mustn't be.' 

' Mustn't be i ' 

Mrs. Quentin shook her head sadly, and the 
girl, gaining courage from this mute negation, 
cried mth an uncontrollable escape of feeling : 

^ It's because you thought me hard, obstinate, 
narrow-minded ? Oh, I understand that so 
well 1 My self^righteousness must have seemed 
so petty ! A girl who could sacrifice a man's 
future to her own moral vanity — ^for it was a 
form of vanity ; you showed me that pltunly 
enough — how you must have despised me! 
But I am not that girl now-^indeed I'm not. 
I'm not impulsive — I think things out. I've 
thought this out. I know AJan loves me-^I 
know how he loves me — ^and I believe I can 
help him-— oh, not in the ways I had fancied 
before — but just merely by loving him.' She 
paused, but Mrs. Quentin made no sign. ^I 
see it all so differently now. I see what an 


influence love itself may be — how my believing 
in him, loving him, accepting him just as he is, 
might help him more than any theories, any 
arguments. I might have seen this long ago in 
looking at you — as he often told me — in seeing 
how you'd kept yourself apart from — from — 
Mr. Quentin*s work and his — been always the 
beautiful side of life to them — ^kept their faith 
alive in spite of themselves — not by interfering, 
preaching, reforming, but by — just loving them 

and being there * She looked at Mrs. 

Quentin with a simple nobleness. * It isn*t as if 
I cared for the money, you know ; if I cared 
for that, I should be afraid * 

* You will care for it in time,* Mrs. Quentin 
said suddenly. 

Miss Fenno drew back, releasing her hand. 
* In time ? ' 

*Yes; when there's nothing else left.' She 
stared a moment at the pictures. * My poor 
child,' she broke out, * I've heard all you say so 
often before ! * 

* You've heard it ? ' 

* Yes — from myself. I felt as you do, I 
argued as you do, I acted as I mean- to prevent 
your doing, when I married Alan's father.' 

The long empty gallery seemed to reverberate 
with the girl's startled exclamation — * Oh, Mrs. 
Quentin ' 

* Hush ; let me speak. Do you suppose I'd 
do this if you were the kind of pink-and-white 
idiot he ought to have married ? It's because I 



see you're alive, as I was, tingling with beliefs, 
ambitions, energies, as I was — ^that I can't see 
you walled up dive, as I was, without stretching 
out a hand to save you ! ' She sat gazing 
rigidly forward, her eyes on the pictures, speak- 
ing in the low precipitate tone of one who tries 
to press the meaning of a lifetime into a few 
breathless sentences. 

* When I met Alan's father,' she went on, * I 
knew nothing of his — his work. We met 
abroad, where I had been living \nth my mother. 
That was twenty-six years ago, when the Radiator 
was less — ^less notorious than it is now. I knew 
my husband owned a newspaper — a great news- 
paper — and nothing more. I had never seen a 
copy of the Radiator ; I had no notion what it 
stood for, in politics— or in other ways. We 
were married in Europe, and a few months 
afterward we came to live here. People were 
already beginning to talk about the Radiator. 
My husband, on leaving college, had bought it 
with some money an old uncle had left him, and 
the public at first was merely curious to see 
what an ambitious, stirring young man without 
any experience of journalism was going to make 
out of his experiment. They found first of all 
that he was going to make a great deal of money 
out of it. I found that out too. I was so 
happy in other ways that it didn't make much 
difference at first ; though it was pleasant to be 
able to help my mother, to be generous and 
charitable, to live in a nice house, and wear the 


handsome gowns he liked to see me in. But 
still it didn't really count — it counted so little 
that when, one day, I learned what the Radiator 
was, I would have gone out into the streets 
barefooted rather than live another hour on the 
money it brought in. . . .* Her voice sank, 
and she paused to steady it. The girl at her 
side did not speak or move. * I shall never 
forget that day,' she began again. * The paper 
had stripped bare some family scandal — some 
miserable bleeding secret that a dozen unhappy 
people had been struggling to keep out of print 
— that would have been kept out if my husband 
had not — Oh, you must guess the rest ! I can't 
go on ! ' 

She felt a hand on hers. * You mustn't go 
on,' the girl whispered. 

* Yes, I must — I must ! You must be made 
to understand.' She drew a deep breath. * My 
husband was not like Alan. When he found 
out how I felt about it he was surprised at first 
— but gradually he began to see — or at least I 
fancied he saw — the hatefulness of it. At any 
rate he saw how I suffered, and he offered to 
give up the whole thing — to sell the paper. It 
couldn't be done all of a sudden, of course — he 
made me see that — for he had put all his money 
in it, and he had no special aptitude for any 
other kind of work. He was a born Journalist 
— ^like Alan. It was a great sacrifice for him to 
give up the paper, but he promised to do it — 
in time — when a good opportunity offered. 


Meanwhile, of course, he wanted to build it up, 
to increase the circulation — and to do that he 
had to keep on in the same way — ^he made that 
clear to me. I saw that we were in a vicious 
circle. The paper, to sell well, had to be made 
more and more detestable and disgraceful. At 
first I rebelled — ^but somehow — I can*t tell you 
how it was — after that first concession the ground 
seemed to give under me : with every struggle 
I sank deepen And then — then Alan was born. 
He was such a delicate baby that there was very 
little hope of saving him. But money did it — 
the money from the paper. I took him abroad 
to see the best physicians — I took him to a 
warm climate every winter. In hot weather the 
doctors recommended sea air, and we had a 
yacht and cruised every summer. I owed his 
life to the Radiator. And when he began to 
grow stronger the habit was formed — the habit 
of luxury. He could not get on without the 
things he had always been used to. He pined 
in bad air ; he drooped under monotony and 
discomfort ; he throve on variety, amusement, 
travel, every kind of novelty and excitement. 
And all I wanted for him his inexhaustible 
foster-mother was there to give ! 

* My husband said nothing, but he must have 
seen how things were going. There was no 
more talk of giving up the Radiator. He never 
reproached me with my inconsistency, but I 
thought he must despise me, and the thought 
made me reckless. I determined to ignore the 


paper altogether — to take what it gave as though 
I didn't know where it came from. And to 
excuse this I invented the theory that one may, 
so to speak, purify money by putting it to 
good uses. I gave away a great deal in charity 
— I indulged myself very little at first. All the 
money that was not spent on Alan I tried to do 
good with. But gradually, as my boy grew up, 
the problem became more complicated. How 
was I to protect Alan from the contamination I 
had let him live in ? I couldn't preach by ex- 
ample — couldn't hold up his father as a warning, 
or denounce the money we were living on. All 
I could do was to disguise the inner ugliness of 
life by making it beautiful outside — to build a 
wall of beauty between him and the facts of 
life, turn his tastes and interests another way, 
hide the Radiator from him as a smiling woman 
at a ball may hide a cancer in her breast ! Just 
as Alan was entering college his father died. 
Then I saw nly way clear. I had loved my 
husband — ^and yet I drew my first free breath in 
years. For the Radiator had been left to Alan 
outright — there was nothing on earth to prevent 
his selling it when he came of age. And there 
was no excuse for his not selling it. I had 
brought him up to depend on money, but the 
paper had given us enough money to gratify all 
his tastes. At last we could turn on the monster 
that had nourished us. I felt a savage joy in 
the thought — I could hardly bear to wait till 
Alan came of age. But I had never spoken to 


him of the paper, and I didn't dare speak of it 
now. Some false shame kept me back, some 
vague belief in his ignorance. I would wait 
till he was twenty-one, and then we should be 

* I waited — the day came, and I spoke. You 
can guess his answer, I suppose. He had no 
idea of selling the Radiator. It wasn't the 
money he cared for — it was the career that 
tempted him. He was a born journalist, and 
his ambition, ever since he could remember, had 
been to carry on his father's work, to develop, 
to surpass it. There was nothing in the world 
as interesting as modern journalism. He couldn't 
imagine any other kind of life that wouldn't 
bore him to death. A newspaper like the 
Radiator might be made one of the biggest 
powers on earth, and he loved power, and 
meant to have all he could get. I listened to 
him in a kind of trance. I couldn't find a word 
to say. His father had had scruples — he had 

1 none. I seemed to realize at once that argu- 
jment would be useless. I don't know that I 
even tried to plead with him — he was so bright 
and hard and inaccessible ! Then I saw that he 
was, after all, what I had made him — ^the creature 
of my concessions, my connivances, my evasions. 
That was the price I had p^d for him — I had 
. kept him at that cost ! 

* Well — I had kept him, at any rate. That 
was the feeling that survived. He was my boy, 
my son, my very own — till some other woman 


took him. Meanwhile the old life must go on 
as it could. I gave up the struggle. If at that 
point he was inaccessible, at others he was close 
to me. He has always been a perfect son. 
Our tastes grew together — we enjoyed the same 
books, the same pictures, the same people. All 
I had to do was to look at him in profile to see 
the side of him that was really mine. At first I 
kept thinking of the dreadful other side — but 
gradually the impression faded, and I kept my 
mind turned from it, as one does from a defor- 
mity in a face one loves. I thought I had made 
my last compromise with life — had hit on a 
modus Vivendi that would last my time. 

* And then he met you. I had always been 
prepared for his marrying, but not a girl like 
you. I thought he would choose a sweet thing 
who would never pry into his closets — he hated 
women with ideas ! But as soon as I saw you 
I knew the struggle would have to begin again. 
He is so much stronger than his father — he is 
full of the most monstrous convictions. And 
he has the courage of them, too — you saw last 
year that his love for you never made him waver. 
He believes in his work ; he adores it — it is a 
kind of hideous idol to which he would make 
human sacrifices ! He loves you still — I've been 
honest with you — but his love wouldn't change 
him. It is you who would have to change — to 
die gradually, as I have died, till there is onljr 
one live point left in me. Ah, if one died conjh 
pletely — that's simple enough ! But something 


persists — remember that — a single point, an 
aching nerve of truth. Now and then you may 
drug it — ^but a touch wakes it again, as your 
face has waked it in me. There's sdways enough 
of one's old self left to sufier with. . . .' 

She stood up and faced the girl abruptly. 
* What shaU I teU Alan.? ' she said. 

Miss Fenno sat motionless, her eyes on the 
ground. Twilight was falling on the gallery — 
a twilight which seemed to emanate not so 
much from the glass dome overhead as from 
the crepuscular depths into which the faces of 
the pictures were receding. The custodian's 
step sounded warningly down the corridor. 
When the girl looked up she was alone. 




This is the story that, in the dining-room of 
the old Beacon Street house (now the Aldebaran 
Club), Judge Anthony Bracknell, of the famous 
East India firm of Bracknell & Saulsbee, when 
the ladies had withdrawn to the oval parlour 
(and Maria's harp was throwing its gauzy web 
of sound across the Common), used to relate to 
his grandsons, about the year that Buonaparte 
marched upon Moscow. 


* Him Venice ! ' said the Lascar with the big 
ear-rings ; and Tony Bracknell, leaning on the 
high gunwale of his father's East Indiaman, the 
Hepzibah B., saw far off, across the morning 
sea, a faint vision of towers and domes dissolved 
in golden air. 

It was a rare February day of the year 1760, 
and young Tony, newly of age, and bound on 
the grand tour aboard the crack merchantman 
of old Bracknell's fleet, felt his heart leap up 
as the distant city trembled into shape. Venice! 
The name, since childhood, had been a magi- 
cian's wand to him. In the hall of the old 
Bracknell house at Salem there hung a series 



of yellowing prints which Unde Richard 
SaiUsbee had brought home from one of his 
long voyages : views of heathen mosques and 
palaces, of the Grand Turk's Seraglio, of St. 
Peter's Church in Rome ; and, in a corner — 
the corner nearest the rack where the old 
flintlocks hung — d, busy merry populous scene 
entitled : Sf. Mark's Square in Venice. This 
picture, from the first, had singularly taken 
little Tony's fancy. His unformulated criticism 
on the others was that they lacked action. 
True, in the view of St. Peter's an experienced- 
looking gentleman in a full-bottomed wig was 
pointing out the fairly obvious monument to 
a bashful companion, who had presumably not 
ventured to raise his eyes to it ; while, at the 
doors of the Seraglio, a group of turbaned in- 
fidels observed virith less hesitancy the approach 
of a veiled lady on a camel. But in Venice so 
many things were happening at once — ^more, 
Tony was sure, than had ever happened in 
Boston in a twelvemonth or in Salem in a 
long life-time. For here, by their garb, were 
people of every nation on earth, L)hinamen, 
Turks, Spaniards, and many more, mixed with 
a parti- coloured throng of gentry, lackeys, 
chapmen, hucksters, and tall personages in 
parsons' gowns who stalked through the crowd 
with an air of mastery, a string of parasites at 
their heels. And all these people seemed to 
be diverting themselves hugely, chaflpering with 
the hucksters, watching the antics of trained 


dogs and monkeys, distributing doles to maimed 
beggars or having their pockets picked by 
slippery-looking fellows in black — the whole 
with such an air of ease and good-humour that 
one felt the cut -purses to be as much a part 
of the show as the tumbling acrobats and 

As Tony advanced in years and experience 
this childish mumming lost its magic ; but not 
so the early imaginings it had excited. For 
the old picture had been but the spring-board 
of fancy, the first step of a cloud-ladder leading 
to a land of dreams. With these dreams the 
name of Venice remained associated ; and all 
that observation or report subsequently brought 
him concerning the place seemed, on a sober 
warranty of fact, to confirm its claim to stand 
midway between reality and illusion. There 
was, for instance, a slender Venice glass, gold- 
powdered as with lily pollen or the dust of 
sunbeams, that, standing in the corner cabinet 
betwixt two Lowestoft caddies, seemed, among 
its lifeless neighbours, to palpitate like an 
impaled butterfly. There was, farther, a gold 
chain of his mother's, spun of that same sun- 
pollen, so thread-like, impalpable, that it slipped 
through the fingers like light, yet so strong 
that it carried a heavy pendant which seemed 
held in air as if by magic. Magic ! That was 
the word which the thought of Venice evoked. 
It was the kind of place, Tony felt, in which 
things elsewhere impossible might naturally 


happen, in which two and two might make five, 
a paradox elope with a syllogism, and a con- 
clusion give the lie to its own premiss. Was 
there ever a young heart that did not, once 
and again, long to get away into such a world 
as that? Tony, at least, had felt the longing 
from the first hour when the axioms in his 
horn-book had brought home to him his heavy 
responsibilities as a Christian and a sinner. 
And now here was his wish taking shape 
before him, as the distant haze of gold shaped 
itself into towers and domes across the morning 

The Reverend Ozias Mounce, Tony*s 
governor and bear-leader, was just putting 
a hand to the third clause of the fourth part 
of a sermon on Free-Will and Predestination 
as the Hepzibah B.'s anchor rattled overboard. 
Tony, in his haste to be ashore, would have 
made one plunge with the anchor ; but the 
Reverend Ozias, on being roused from his 
lucubrations, earnestly protested against leaving 
his argument in suspense. What was the trifle 
of an arrival at some Papistical foreign city, 
where the very churches wore turbans like so 
many Moslem idolators, to the important fact 
of Mr. Mounce's summing up his conclusions 
before the Muse of Theology took flight ? 
He should be happy, he said, if the tide served, 
to visit Venice with Mr. Bracknell the next 

The next morning, ha ! — Tony murmured 


a submissive * Yes, sir,* winked at the sub- 
jugated captain^ buckled on his sword, pressed 
his hat down with a flourish, and before 
the Reverend Ozias had arrived at his next 
deduction, was skimming merrily shoreward 
in the Hepzibah's gig. 

A moment more and he was in the thick 
of it ! Here was the very world of the old 
print, only suffused with sunlight and colour, 
and bubbling with merry noises. What a scene 
it was ! A square enclosed in fantastic painted 
buildings, and peopled with a throng as 
fantastic : a bawling, laughing, jostling, sweat- 
ing mob, parti-coloured, parti-speeched, crack- 
ling and sputtering under the hot sun like a 
dish of fritters over a kitchen fire. Tony, 
agape, shouldered his way through the press, 
aware at once that, spite of the tumult, the 
shrillness, the gesticulation, there was no under- 
current of clownishness, no tendency to horse- 
play, as in such crowds on market-day at home, 
but a kind of facetious suavity which seemed 
to include everybody in the circumference of 
one huge joke. In such an air the sense of 
strangeness soon wore off, and Tony was 
beginning to feel himself vastly at home, when 
a lift of the tide bore him against a droll- 
looking bell -ringing fellow who carried above 
his head a tall metal tree hung with sherbet- 
glasses. The encounter set the glasses spinning, 
and three or four spun off and clattered to the 
stones. The sherbet-seller called on all the 


saints^ and Tony, clapping a lordly hand to his 
pocket, tossed him a ducat by mistake for a 
sequin. The fellow's eyes shot out of their 
orbits^ and just then a personable-looking young 
man who had observed the transaction stepped 
up to Tony Und said pleasantly, in English : 

*I perceive, sir, that you are not fanuliar 
with our currency.* 

* Does he want more ?* says Tony, very lordly ; 
whereat the other laughed and replied : ^ You 
have given him enough to retire from his busi- 
ness and open a- gaming-house over the arcade/ 

Tony joined in the laugh, and this incident 
bridging the preliminaries, the two young men 
were presently hobnobbing over a glass of Canary 
in front of one of the cofiee-houses about the 
square. Tony counted himself lucky to have 
run across an English-speaking companion who 
was good-natured enough to give him a clue to 
the labyrinth ; and when he had paid for the 
Canary (in the coin his friend selected) they set 
out again to view the town. The Italian gentle- 
man, who called himself Count Rialto, appeared 
to have a very numerous acquaintance, and was 
able to point out to Tony all the chief dignitaries 
of the state, the men of ton and ladies of fashion, 
as well as a number of other characters of a kind 
not openly mentioned in taking a census of 

Tony, who was not averse from reading 
when nothing better offered, had perused the 
* Merchant of Venice* and Mr. Otway*s fine 


tragedy ; but though these pieces had given him 
a notion that the social usages of Venice differed 
from those at home, he was unprepared for the 
surprising appearance and manners of the great 
people his friend named to him. The gravest 
Senators of the Republic went in prodigious 
striped trousers, short cloaks and feathered hats. 
One nobleman wore a ruff and doctor's gown, 
another a black velvet tunic slashed with rose- 
colour ; while the President of the dreaded 
Council of Ten was a terrible strutting fellow 
with a rapier-like nose, a buff leather jerkin and 
a trailing scarlet cloak that the crowd was careful 
not to step on. 

It was all vastly diverting, and Tony would 
gladly have gone on forever ; but he had given 
his word to the captain to be at the landing- 
place at sunset, and here was dusk already creep- 
ing over the skies ! Tony was a man of honour ; 
and having pressed on the Count a handsome 
damascened dagger selected from one of the 
goldsmiths' shops in a narrow street lined with 
such wares, he insisted on turning his face toward 
the Hepzibah's gig. The Count yielded reluc- 
tantly ; but as they came out again on the 
square they were caught in a great throng 
pouring toward the doors of the cathedral. 

*They go to Benediction,' said the Count. 
* A beautiful sight, with many lights and flowers. 
It is a pity you cannot take a peep at it.' 

Tony thought so too, and in another minute 
a l^less beggar had pulled back the leathern 



flap of the cathedral door, and they stood in a 
haze of gold and perfume that seemed to rise 
and fall on the mighty undulations of the organ. 
Here the press was as thick as without ; and as 
Tony flattened himself agsunst a pillar he heard 
a pretty voice at his elbow: — *Oh, ar, oh, sir, 
your sword ! * 

He turned at sound of the broken English, 
and saw a girl who matched the voice trying to 
disengage her dress from the tip of his scabbard. 
She wore one of the voluminous black hoods 
which the Venetian ladies affected, and under its 
projecting eaves her face spied out at him as 
sweet .as a nesting bird. 

In the dusk their hands met over the 
scabbard, and as she freed herself a shred of her 
lace flounce clung to Tony's enchanted fingers. 
Looking after her, he saw she was on the arm of a 
pompous-looking gray beard in a long black gown 
and scarlet stockings, who, on perceiving the 
exchange of glances between the young people, 
drew the lady away with a threatening look. 

The Count met Tony's eye with a smile. 
* One of our Venetian beauties,' said he ; * the 
lovely Polixena Cador. She is thought to have 
the finest eyes in Venice.' 

* She spoke English,' stammered Tony. 

(Qh — ah — precisely : she learned the language 
at the Court of Saint James, where her rather, 
the Senator, was formerly accredited as Am- 
bassador. She played as an infant with the 
royal princes of England.' 


* And that was her father ? ' 

* Assuredly : young ladies of Donna Polixena's 
rank do not go abroad save with their parents 
or a duenna/ 

Just then a soft hand slid into Tony's. His 
heart gave a foolish bound, and he turned about 
half-expecting to meet again the merry eyes 
under the hood; but saw instead a slender 
brown boy, in some kind of fanciful page's 
dress, who thrust a folded paper between his 
fingers and vanished in the throng. Tony, in a 
tingle, glanced surreptitiously at the Count, who 
appeared absorbed in his prayers. The crowd, 
at the ringing of a bell, had in fact been, over- 
swept by a sudden wave of devotion ; and 
Tony seized the moment to step beneath a 
lighted shrine with his letter. 

^ I am in dreadful trouble and implore your 
help. Polixena ' — he read ; but hardly had he 
seized the sense of the words when a hand fell 
on his shoulder, and a stern-looking man in a 
cocked hat, and bearing a kind of rod or mace, 
pronounced a few words in Venetian. 

Tony, with a start, thrust the letter in his 
breast, and tried to jerk himself free ; but the 
harder he jerked the tighter grew the other's 
grip, and the Count, presendy perceiving what 
had happened, pushed his way through the 
crowd, and whispered hastily to his companion : 
^ For God's sake, make no struggle. This is 
serious. Keep quiet and do as I tell you.' 

Tony was no chicken-heart. He had some- 


thing of a name for pugnacity among the lads 
of his own age at home, and was not the man to 
stand in Venice what he would have resented in 
Salem ; but the devil of it was that this black 
fellow seemed to be pointing to the letter in his 
breast ; and this suspicion was confirmed by the 
G)unt's agitated whisper. 

*This is one of the agents of the Ten. — 
For God's take, no outcry/ He exchanged a 
word or two with the mace-bearer and again 
turned to Tony, * You have been seen concealing 
a letter about your person * 

* And what of that ? * says Tony furiously. 

* Gently, gently, my master. A letter handed 
to you by the page of Donna Polixena Cador. — 
A black business ! Oh, a very black business ! 
This Gulor is one of the most powerful nobles 
in Venice — I beseech you, not a word, ar ! Let 
me think — deliberate ' 

His hand on Tony's shoulder, he carried oti 
a rapid dialogue with the potentate in the 
cocked hat. 

*I am sorry, sir — but our young ladies of 
rank are as jealously guarded as the Grand 
Turk's wives, and you must be answerable for 
this scandal. The best I can do is to have you 
taken privately to the Palazzo Cador, instead 
of being brought before the Council. I have 
pleaded your youth and inexperience' — Tony 
winced at this — ' and I think the business may 
still be arranged.' 

Meanwhile the agent of the Ten had yielded 


his place to a sharp-featured shabby -looking 
fellow in black, dressed somewhat like a lawyer*s 
clerk, who laid a grimy hand on Tony's arm, 
and with many apologetic gestures steered him 
through the crowd to the doors of the church. 
The Count held him by the other arm, and in 
this fashion they emerged on the square, which 
now lay in darkness save for the many lights 
twinkling under the arcade and in the windows 
of the gaming-rooms above it. 

Tony by this time had regained voice enough 
to declare that he would go where they pleased, 
but that he must first say a word to the mate of 
the Hepzibah, who had now been awaiting him 
some two hours or more at the landing-place. 

The Count repeated this to Tony's custodian, 
but the latter shook his head and rattled off a 
sharp denial. 

* Impossible, sir,' said the Count. * I entreat 
you not to insist. Any resistance will tell 
against you in the end.' 

Tony fell silent. With a rapid eye he was 
measuring his chances of escape. In wind and 
limb he was more than a mate for his captors, 
and boyhood's ruses were not so far behind him 
but he felt himself equal to outwitting a dozen 
grown men ; but he had the sense to see that at 
a cry the crowd would close in on him. Space 
was what he wanted : a clear ten yards, and he 
would have laughed at Doge and Council. But 
the throng was thick as glue, and he walked 
on submissively, keeping his eye alert for an 


opening. Suddenly the mob swerved aside after 
some new show. Tony's fist shot out at the 
black fellow's chest, and before the latter could 
right himself the young New Englander was 
showing a dean pair of neels to his escort. On 
he sped, cleaving the crowd like a flood-tide in 
Gloucester bay, diving under the first arch that 
caught his eye, dashing down a lane to an unlit 
water-way, and plunging across a narrow hump- 
back bridge which landed him in a black pocket 
between walls. But now his pursuers were at 
his back, reinforced by the yelping mob. The 
walls were too high to scale, and for all his 
courage Tony's breath came short as he paced 
the masonry cage in which ill-luck had landed 
him. Suddenly a sate opened in one of the 
walls, and a slip of a servant wench looked out 
and beckoned him. There was no time to 
weigh chances. Tony dashed through the gate, 
his rescuer slammed and bolted it, and the two 
stood in a narrow paved well between high 


The servant picked up a lantern and signed to 
Tony to follow her. They climbed a squalid 
stairway of stone, felt their way along a corridor, 
and entered a tall vaulted room feebly lit by an 
oil-lamp hung from the painted ceiling. Tony 
discerned traces of former splendour in his sur- 
roundings, but he had no time to examine them, 
for a figure started up at his approach and in 
the dim light he recognized the girl who was 
the cause of all his troubles. 

She sprang toward him with outstretched 
hands, but as he advanced her face changed and 
she shrank back abashed. 

* This is a misunderstanding — a dreadful mis- 
understanding,* she cried out in her pretty 
broken English. *Oh, how does it happen 
that you are here ? * 

^Through no choice of my own, madam, I 
assure you ! * retorted Tony, not overpleased by 
his reception. 

*But why — ^how — how did you make this 
unfortunate mistake ? * 



^ Why, madam, if youUl excuse my candour, 
I think the mistake was yours * 

>in sending me a letter- 

* Tou — z letter ? ' 
* by a simpleton of a lad, who must 

needs hand it to me under your father's very 

nose * 

The girl broke in on him with a cry. 
* What ! It was you who received my letter ? * 
She swept round on the litde maid-servant and 
submerged her under a flood of Venetian. The 
latter volleyed back in the same jargon, and as 
she did so, Tony's astonished eye detected in 
her the doubleted page who had handed him 
the letter in Saint Mark's. 

* What ! ' he cried, ' the lad was this girl in 
disffuise ? ' 

l^olixena broke off with an irrepressible smile ; 
but her face clouded instandy and she returned 
to the charge. 

*This wicked, careless girl — she has ruined 
me, she will be my undoing ! Oh, sir, how can 
I make you understand? The letter was not 
intended for you — it was meant for the English 
Ambassador, an old friend of my mother's, from 
whom I hoped to obtain assistance — oh, how 
can I ever excuse myself to you ? ' 

* No excuses are needed, madam,' said Tony, 
bowing ; ^ though I am surprised, I own, that 
any one should mistake me for an ambassador.' 

Here a wave of mirth agdn overran Polixena's 


fiice. * Oh, sir, you must pardon my poor girl's 
mistake. She heard you speaking English, and 
— and — I had told her to hand the letter to the 
handsomest foreigner in the church/ Tony 
bowed again, more profoundly. * The English 
Ambassador,' Polixena added simply, * is a very 
handsome man.' 

* I wish, madam, I were a better proxy ! ' 

She echoed his laugh, and then clapped her 

hands together with a look of anguish. ^ Fool 

that I am ! How can I jest at such a moment ? 

I am in dreadful trouble, and now perhaps I 

have brought trouble on you also Oh, my 

father ! I hear my father coming ! ' She turned 
pale and leaned tremblingly upon the little 

Footsteps and loud voices were in fact heard 
outside, and a moment later the red-stockinged 
Senator stalked into the room attended by half- 
a-dozen of the magnificoes whom Tony had 
seen abroad in the square. At sight of him, all 
clapped hands to their swords and burst into 
furious outcries ; and though their jargon was 
unintelligible to the young man, their tones 
and gestures made their meaning unpleasantly 
plain. The Senator, with a start of anger, first 
flung himself on the intruder ; then, snatched 
back by his companions, turned wrathfully on 
his daughter, who, at his feet, with outstretched 
arms and streaming face, pleaded her cause with 
all the eloquence or young distress. Meanwhile 
the other nobles gesticulated vehemently among 


themsdves, and one, a truculent-looking person- 
age in rufF and Spanish cape, stalled apart, 
keeping a jealous eye on Tony. The ktter 
was at his wit's end how to comport himself, for 
the lovely Polixena*s tears had quite drowned 
her few words of English, and beyond guessing 
that the magnificoes meant him a mischief he 
had no notion what they would be at. 

At this point, luckily, lus friend Count Rialto 
suddenly broke in on the scene, and was at once 
assailed by all the tongues in the room. He 
pulled a long face at sight of Tony, but signed 
to the young man to be silent, and addressed 
himself earnestly to the Senator. The latter, at 
first, would not draw breath to hear him ; but 
presently, sobering, he walked apart with the 
Count, and the two conversed together out of 

* My dear sir,* said the Count, at length 
turning to Tony with a perturbed countenance, 
Mt is as I feared, and you are fallen into a great 

* A great misfortune ! A great trap, I call 
it ! * shouted Tony, whose blood, by this time, 
was boiling ; but as he uttered the word the 
beautiful Polixena cast such a stricken look on 
him that he blushed up to the forehead. 

* Be careful,* said the Count, in a low tone. 
* Though his lUustriousness does not speak your 
language he understands a few words of it, 
and * 

* So much the better I * broke in Tony ; * I 


hope he will understand me if I ask him in plain 
English what is his grievance against me.' 

The Senator, at this, would have burst forth 
again ; but the Count, stepping between, 
answered quickly : * His grievance against you 
is that you have been detected in secret corre- 
spondence with his daughter, the most noble 
Polixena Cador, the betrothed bride of this 
gentleman, the most illustrious Marquess Zani- 

polo ' and he waved a deferential hand at 

the frowning hidalgo of the cape and ruff. 

*Sir,* said Tony, *if that be the extent of 
my offence, it lies with the young lady to set 

me free, since by her own avowal ' but here 

he stopped short, for, to his surprise, Polixena 
shot a terrified glance at him. 

*Sir,* interposed the Count, *we are not 
accustomed in Venice to take shelter behind a 
lady's reputation.' 

* No more are we in Salem,' retorted Tony 
in a white heat. * I was merely about to remark 
that, by the young lady's avowal, she has never 
seen me before.' 

Polixena's eyes signalled her gratitude, and he 
felt he would have died to defend her. 

The Count translated his statement, and 
presently pursued : * His lUustriousness observes 
that, in that case, his daughter's misconduct has 
been all the more reprehensible.' 

* Her misconduct ? Of what does he accuse 

* Of sending you, just now, in the church of 


Saint Mark, a letter which you were seen to 
read openly and thrust in your bosom. The 
incident was witnessed by his lUustriousness the 
Marauess Zanipolo, who, in consequence, has 
already repudiated Us unhappy bride.' 

Tony stared contemptuously at the black 
Marquess. * If his Illustriousness is so lacking 
in gallantry as to repudiate a lady on so trivial 
a pretext, it is he and not I who should be the 
object of her father's resentment.' 

* That, my dear young gentleman, is hardly 
for you to decide. Your only excuse being 
your ignorance of our customs, it is scarcely for 
you to advise us how to behave in matters of 

It seemed to Tony as though the Count were 
going over to his enemies, and the thought 
sharpened his retort. 

' I had supposed,' said he, ^ that men of sense 
had much the same behaviour in all countries, 
and that, here as elsewhere, a gentleman would 
be taken at his word. I solemnly affirm that 
the letter I was seen to read reflects, in no way 
on the honour of this young lady, and has in 
fact nothing to do with what you suppose.* 

As he had himself no notion what the letter 
was about, this was as far as he dared commit 

There was another brief consultation in the 
opposing camp, and the Count then said : — 
* We all know, sir, that a gentleman is obliged 
to meet certain enquiries by a denial ; but you 


have at your command the means of imme- 
diately clearing the lady. Will you show the 
letter to her father ? ' 

There was a perceptible pause, during which 
Tony, while appearing to look straight before 
him, managed to deflect an interrogatory glance 
toward Polixena. Her reply was a faint nega- 
tive motion, accompanied by unmistakable signs 
of apprehension. 

* Poor girl 1 ' he thought, * she is in a worse 
case than I imagined, and whatever happens I 
must keep her secret/ 

He turned to the Senator with a deep bow. 
' I am not/ said he, * in the habit of showing my 
private correspondence to strangers/ 

The Count interpreted these words, and 
Donna Polixena's father, dashing his hand on 
his hilt, broke into furious invective, while the 
Marquess continued to nurse his outraged feel- 
ings aloof. 

The Count shook his head funereally. * Alas, 
sir, it is as I feared. This is not the first time 
that youth and propinquity have led to fatal 
imprudence. But I need hardly, I suppose, 
point out the obligation incumbent upon you as 
a man of honour/ 

Tony stared at him haughtily, with a look 
which was meant for the Marquess. *And 
what obligation is that ? ' 

*To repair the wrong you have done — in 
other words, to marry the lady.* 

Polixena at this burst into tears, and Tony 


8ud to himself : * Why in heaven does she not 
bid me show the letter ? ' Then he remembered 
that it had no superscription, and that the 
words it contained, supposing them to have 
been addressed to hiniiself, were hardly of a 
nature to disarm suspicion. The sense of the 
girFs grave plight efiaced all thought of his own 
risk, but the Count's last words struck him as so 
preposterous that he could not repress a smile. 

* I cannot flatter myself,' said he, * that the 
lady would welcome this solution.' 

The Count's manner became increasingly 
ceremonious. *Such modesty,' he said, ^be- 
comes your youth and inexperience ; but even 
if it were justified it would scarcely alter the 
case, as it is always assumed in this country that 
a young l^dy wishes to marry the man whom 
her father has selected.' 

*But I understood just now,' Tony inter- 
posed, * that the gentleman yonder was in that 
enviable position. 

* So he was, till circumstances obliged him to 
waive the privilege in your favour.' 

* He does me too much honour ; but if a 
deep sense of my unworthiness obliges me to 
dedine * 

*You are still,' interrupted the Count, 
* labouring imder a misapprehension. Your 
choice in the matter is no more to be consulted 
than the lady's. Not to put too fine a point on 
it, it is necessary that you should marry her 
within the hour.' 


Tony, at this, for all his spirit, fdt the blood 
run thin in his veins. He looked in silence at 
the threatening visages between himself and the 
door, stole a side-glance at the high barred 
windows of the apartment, and then turned to 
Polixena, who had fallen sobbing at her father's 

• And if I refuse ? * said he. 

The Count made a significant gesture. ^I 
am not so foolish as to threaten a man of your 
mettle. But perhaps you are unaware what the 
consequences would be to the lady.* 

Polixena, at this, struggling to her feet, 
addressed a few impassioned words to the Count 
and her. father ; but the latter put her aside 
with an obdurate gesture. 

The Count turned to Tony. * The lady her- 
self pleads for you — at what cost you do not 
less — but as you see it is vain. In an hour 
lis Illustriousness*s chaplain will be here. Mean- 
while his Illustriousness consents to leave you in 
the custody of your betrothed.* 

He stepped back, and the other gentlemen, 
bowing with deep ceremony to Tony, stalked 
out one by one from the room. Tony heard 
the key turn in the lock, and found himself 
alone with Polixena. 


The girl had sunk into a chair, ner face hidden, 
a picture of shame and agony. So moving was 
the sight that Tony once again forgot his own 
extremity in the view of her distress. He went 
and kneeled beside her, drawing her hands from 
her face. 

* Oh, don't make me look at you ! * she 
sobbed ; but it was on his bosom that she hid 
from his gaze. He held her there a breathing- 
space, as he might have clasped a weeping 
child ; then she drew back and put him gently 
from her. 

^ What humiliation ! ' she lamented. 

* Do you think I blame you for what has 
happened ? ' 

*Alas, was it not my foolish letter that 
brought you to this plight ? And how nobly 
you defended me ! How generous it was of 
ou not to show the letter ! If my father knew 
had written to the Ambassador to save me 
from this dreadful marriage his anger against 
me would be even greater." 



* Ah — it was that you wrote for ? ' cried Tony 
with unaccountable relief. 

' Of course — what else did you think ? * 

* But is it too late for the Ambassador to 
save you ? ' 

* From you ? ' A smile flashed through her 
tears. * Alas, yes.* She drew back and hid her 
face agdn, as though overcome by a fresh wave 
of shame. 

Tony glanced about him. * If I could wrench 
a bar out of that window ' he muttered. 

* Impossible ! The court is guarded. You 
are a prisoner, alas. — Oh, I must speak ! * She 
sprang up and paced the room. *But indeed 
you can scarce think worse of me than you do 
already ' 

' I think ill of you ? * 

* Alas, you must ! To be unwilling to marry 
the man my father has chosen for me ' 

* Such a beetle-browed lout ! It would be a 
burning shame if you married him.' 

* Ah, you come from a free country. Here 
a girl is allowed no choice.' 

* It is infamous, I say — infamous ! ' 

* No, no — I ought to have resigned myself, 
like so many others.' 

* Resigned yourself to that brute ! Im- 
possible ! ' 

*He has a dreadful name for violence — his 
gondolier has told my little maid such tales of 
him ! But why do I talk of myself, when it is 
of you I should be thinking ? ' 


' Of me, poor child ? ' cried Tony, losing his 

* Yes, and how to save you — for I can save 
you. But every moment counts — ^and yet what 
I have to say is so dreadful.' 

* Nothing from your lips could seem 

< Ah, if he had had your way of speaking ! ' 
•Well, now at least you are free of him,' 

said Tony, a little wildly ; but at this she stood 

up and bent a grave look on him. 

* No, I am not free,' she said ; ^ but you are, 
if you will do as I tell you.' 

Tony, at this, felt a sudden dizziness ; as 
though, from a mad flight through clouds and 
darkness, he had dropped to safety again, and 
the fall had stunned him. 

* What am I to do ? ' he said. 

•Look away from me, or I can never tell 

He thought at first that this was a jest, but 
her eyes commanded him, and reluctantly he 
walked away and leaned in the embrasure of the 
window. She stood in the middle of the room, 
and as soon as his back was turned she began to 
speak, in a quick monotonous voice, as though 
she were reciting a lesson. 

* You must know that the Marquess Zanipolo, 
though a great noble, is not a rich man. True, 
he has large estates, but he is a desperate spend- 
thrift and gambler, and would sell his soul for a 
round sum of ready money. — ^If you turn round 


I shall not go on ! — He wrangled horribly with 
my father over my dowry — he wanted me to 
have more than either of my sisters, though one 
married a Procurator and the other a grandee 
of Spain. But my father is a gambler too — oh, 
such fortunes as are squandered over the arcade 
yonder ! And so — and so— don't turn, I im- 
plore you — oh, do you begin to see my 
meaning ? ' 

She broke off sobbing, and it took all his 
strength to keep his eyes from her. 

* Go on,' he sjud. 

* Will you not understand ? Oh, I would 
say anything to save you ! You don't know us 
Venetians — we're all to be bought for a price. 
It is not only the brides who are marketable — 
sometimes the husbands sell themselves too. — 
And they think you rich — my father does, and 
the others — I don't know why, unless you have 
shown your money too freely — and the English 
are all rich, are they not? And — oh, oh — 
do you understand? Oh, I can't bear your 
eyes ! * 

She dropped into a chair, her head on her 
arms, and Tony in a flash was at her side. 

* My poor child, my poor Polixena ! ' he 
cried, and wept and clasped her. 

*You are rich, are you not? You would 
promise them a ransom ? ' she persisted. 

* To enable you to marry the Marquess ? ' 
*To enable you to escape from this place. 

Oh, I hope I may never see your face again.' 

z 2 


She fell to weeping once more, and he drew 
away and paced the floor in a fever. 

Presently she sprang up with a fresh air of 
resolution, and pointed to a clock against the 
wall. * The hour is nearly over. It is quite 
true that my father is gone to fetch his chaplain. 
Oh, I implore you, be warned by me ! There 
is no other way of escape.' 

* And if I do as you say ? ' 

* You are safe ! You are free ! I stake my 
life on it.* 

* And you — ^you are married to that villain ? ' 

* But I shall have saved you. Tell me your 
name, that I may say it to myself when I am 

* My name is Anthony. But you must not 
marry that fellow.' 

* You forcive me, Anthony ? You don't 
think too badly of me ? ' 

* I say you must not marry that fellow.' 

She laid a trembling hand on his arm. * Time 
presses,' she adjured him, * and I warn you there 
is no other way.' 

For a moment he had a vision of his mother, 
sitting very upright, on a Sunday evening, read- 
ing Dr. Tillotson's sermons in the best parlour 
at Salem ; then he swung round on the girl and 
caught both her hands in his. * Yes, there is,' 
he cried, * if you are willing. Polixena, let the 
priest come 1 ' 

She shrank back from him, white and radiant. 
' Oh, hush, be silent ! ' she said. 


* I am no noble Marquess, and have no great 
estates,' he cried. * My father is a plain India 
merchant in the colony of Massachusetts — but 
if you * 

* Oh, hush, I say ! I don't know what your 
long words mean. But I bless you, bless you, 
bless you on my knees ! ' And she knelt before 
him, and fell to kissing his hands. 

He drew her up to his breast and held her 

* You are willing, Polixena ? ' he said. 

* No, no ! ' She broke from him with out- 
stretched hands. *I am not willing. You 
mistake me. I must marry the Marquess, I 
tell you ! * 

* On my money ? ' he taunted her ; and her 
burning blush rebuked him. 

* Yes, on your money,' she said sadly. 

* Why ? Because, much as you hate him, 
you hate me still more ? ' 

She was silent. 

* If you hate me, why do you sacrifice your- 
self for me ? ' he persisted. 

* You torture me ! And I tell you the hour 
is past.' 

*Let it pass. I'll not accept your sacrifice. 
I will not lift a finger to help another man to 
marry you.' 

* Oh, madman, madman 1 ' she murmured. 
Tony, with crossed arms, faced her squarely, 

and she leaned against the wall a few feet off 
from him. Her breast throbbed under its lace 


and falbalas, and her eyes swam with terror and 

* Polixena, I love you ! * he cried. 

A blush swept over her throat and bosom, 
bathing her in light to the verge of her troubled 

* I love you ! I love you ! * he repeated. 
And now she was on his breast again, and all 

their youth was in their lips. But her embrace 
was as fleeting as a bird's poise, and before he 
knew it he clasped empty air and half the room 
was between them. 

She was holding up a little cond charm and 
laughing. ^ I took it from your fob,' she said. 
* It is of no value, is it ? And I shall not get 
any of the money, you know.* 

She continued to laugh strangely, and the 
rouge burned like fire in her ashen face. 

* What are you talking of } ' he ssid. 
*They never give me anything but the 

clothes I wear. And I shall never see you 
again, Anthony ! ' She gave him a dreadfiil 
look. *Oh, my poor boy, my poor love — "/ 
love you^ I love you^ Polixena / " ' 

He thought she had turned light-headed, and 
advanced to her with soothing words ; but she 
held him quietly at arm's length, and as he 
gazed he read the truth in her face. 

He fell back from her, and a sob broke from 
him as he bowed his head on his hands. 

*Only, for God's sake, have the money 
ready, or there may be foul play here,' she s^d. 


As she spoke there was a great tramping 
of steps outside and a burst of voices on the 

' It is all a lie/ she gasped out, * about my 
marriage, and the Marquess, and the Am- 
bassador, and the Senator — but not, oh, not 
about your danger in this place — or about my 
love,' she breathed to him. And as the key 
rattled in the door she laid her lips on his brow. 

The key rattled, and the door swung open — 
but the black-cassocked gentleman who stepped 
in, though a priest indeed, was no votary of 
idolatrous rites, but that sound orthodox divine, 
the Reverend Ozias Mounce, looking very much 
perturbed at his surroundings, and very much 
on the alert for the Scarlet Woman. He was 
supported, to his evident relief, by the captain 
of the Hepzibah B., and the procession was 
closed by an escort of stern-looking fellows in 
cocked hats and small-swords, who led between 
them Tony*s late friends the magnificoes, now 
as sorry a looking company as the law ever 
landed in her net. 

The captain strode briskly into the room, 
uttering a grunt of satisfaction as he clapped 
eyes on Tony. 

* So, Mr. Bracknell,* said he, * you have been 
seeing the Carnival with this pack of mummers, 
have you ? And this is where your pleasuring 
has landed you ? H*m — a pretty establishment, 
and a pretty lady at the head of it.* He glanced 
about the apartment, and doffed his hat with 


mock ceremony to Polixena, who faced him like 
a princess. 

* Why, my girl/ said he, amicably, * I think 
I saw you this morning in the square, on the 
arm of the Pantaloon yonder ; and as for that 
dptain Spavent — * and he pointed a derisive 
finger at the Marquess — * I've watched him 
drive his bully's trade under the arcade ever 
since I first dropped anchor in these waters. 
Well, well,' he continued, his indignation sub- 
siding, * all's fair in Carnival, I suppose, but this 
gentleman here is under sailing orders, and I 
rear we must break up your litde party.' 

At this Tony saw Count Rialto step forward, 
looking very small and explanatory, and un- 
covering obsequiously to the captsdn. 

^ I can assure you, sir,' said the Count in his 
best English, * that this incident is the result of 
an unfortunate misunderstanding, and if you 
^1 oblige us by dismissing these myrmidons, 
any of my friends here will be happy to oflTer 
satisfaction to Mr. Bracknell and his com- 

Mr. Mounce shrank visibly at this, and the 
captain burst into a loud gufiTaw. 

* Satisfiiction ? ' says he. * Why, my cock, 
that's very handsome of you, considering the 
rope's at your throats. But we'll not take 
advantage of your generosity, for I fear Mr. 
Brackndl has already trespassed on it too long. 
You pack of galley-slaves, you ! ' he splutter^ 
suddenly, ' decoying young innocents with that 


devil's bait of yours * His eye fell on 

Polixena, and his voice softened unaccountably. 
* Ah, well, we must all see the Carnival once, I 
suppose,' he said. * All's well that ends well, as 
the fellow says in the play; and now, if you 
please, Mr. Bracknell, if you'll take the reverend 
gentleman's ,arm there, we'll bid adieu to our 
hospitable entertainers, and right about face for 
the Hepzibah.' 


PrtHitdhy R. & R. Clark, Limited, EdtMburrh. 



S3 fl 


^- "*- 6006 


• y*; 






73 """^si, \ 6006